Overcrowded NT Jails at tipping point, parole board warns

Overcrowded NT Jails at tipping point, Parole Board warns

Jails in the Northern Territory are at a “critical tipping point” according to the head of the NT Parole Board.

With widespread drug use, failing rehabilitation programs, and staff resistant to reform, the jails are overcrowded with fewer people heading out on parole.

acting-justice-stephen
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Southwood

“The environment in which the Parole Board functions is also becoming increasingly difficult,” Supreme Court Justice Stephen Southwood said in the board’s 2019 Annual Report.

“Prisoners are not being adequately prepared for parole.”

Throughout the majority of 2019, there were more than 1800 prisoners in the Northern Territory’s two main correctional facilities. This means the centres are operating roughly seven per cent above capacity, and a 60 per cent increase on 2009 levels.

In 2019, the Parole Board examined 1351 cases, with 155 of those granted parole. This number has been gradually declining.
Roughly 85 per cent of prisoners in the NT are Indigenous.

Insufficient rehabilitation resources

Drug use is widespread in the centres, with the use of synthetic cannabis on the rise.

Correctional staff are hesitant towards reform, with insufficient rehabilitation resources and outstanding industrial issues.

“The number of hours prisoners are spending in their cells has significantly increased,” Justice Southwood said.

“… government policy continues to lag significantly behind what has been recommended and remains ad hoc.”

Funding slashed to support programs

Darwin correctional centre
Darwin Correctional Centre

Despite the overcrowding and declining rates of parole, community-based support programs had been slashed or defunded.

In a statement to the ABC, Attorney-General Selena Uibo said the Labor Government’s Aboriginal Justice Agreement would overhaul the system’s response “to the most over-represented demographic in our prison system”.

The government is yet to fund the agreement, or accept its final proposals.

Ms Uibo said corrections funding would be carefully considered in the next budget.

“We want to provide our corrections officers with the resources and support they require to operate our corrections centres efficiently,” she said.

“However, high imprisonment rates come at a significant economic and social cost and that’s why the Territory Labor Government is working to ultimately reduce imprisonment rates and reoffending.”

If you need help with a parole hearing, please contact us here at O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors.

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