New focus to reduce Aboriginal re-offending

Corrective Services NSW has introduced a multi-faceted approach to help reduce re-offending by Aboriginal inmates and their over-representation in custody.

The Strategy for supporting Aboriginal Offenders to Desist from Re-offending will promote the delivery of programs to address offender needs, and sets targets for participation and completion. Education and vocational training will be skills-based and linked to employment opportunities in both custodial and community settings.

The Strategy includes the newly formed CSNSW Aboriginal Advisory Council which will engage with Aboriginal community leaders and people with professional expertise in health, mental health, family and community services, employment, accommodation, legal services and offender management.

In a NSW-first, Kariong Correctional Centre on the Central Coast is to become a specialist prison tasked to reduce re-offending by young adult offenders, with priority to Aboriginal inmates and their over-representation in custody.

Attorney General and Minister for Justice Brad Hazzard made the announcement in November at the first meeting of the newly formed Advisory Council.

From early in 2015 Kariong will provide four-month-long courses and programs for 50 young adult males with sentences of two years or less.

"Aboriginal people represent only two per cent of the State's population but make up about one quarter of the prison population – and the above average re-offending rate means prison is a revolving door for far too many people," Mr Hazzard said.

"That's not good enough, and this is intended as a major step towards making sure that when people leave prison they have the skills to successfully reintegrate into the community."

Commissioner Peter Severin said the needs of Aboriginal inmates had been analysed. Large scale national and international studies have demonstrated that such specialised treatment can reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

"The Kariong program will target literacy and numeracy, employment skills, anti-social thinking and substance misuse. Inmates will also get the chance to undertake driver knowledge training," he said.

Following their intensive period at Kariong, the short-sentenced inmates will be moved to minimum-security correctional centres – such as St Heliers, Brewarrina or Oberon – to engage in vocational training opportunities.

The program will involve Aboriginal elders and other community members to support and motivate the inmates.