Currently there are over 6,000 people held in Western Australian prisons every day. What is not generally known is that even more prisoners – over 7,000 – are released every year (600 per month or 150 per week). Each of these prisoners left the highly structured, monitored, and securitised prison environment and entered the relative freedom of the community. This transition can be difficult and, in many cases, unsuccessful.
Nearly 40 per cent of all sentenced prisoners return to prison within two years of release and over three-quarters of sentenced prisoners have served previous time in prison. The costs of reoffending are incredibly high with each prisoner costing the state $332 per day, not to mention the financial and human costs to victims.
The successful transition from a prisoner to a productive and independent member of the community is referred to as reintegration. A critical time period that can make or break reintegration is ‘re-entry’ which is when a prisoner transitions from living within prison to being in the community.
The Department of Corrective Services provides specific services within prisons to assist prisoners with re-entry and improve the likelihood of reintegration. Since 2008, ‘transitional managers’ have been present at most prisons to assess the reintegration needs of prisoners and refer them to other government and non-government organisations for assistance. Transitional managers assist prisoners in sourcing identification items such as birth certificates, Medicare cards and driver’s licences. Prisoners are also referred to community organisations that offer programs (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous) or short-term accommodation.
The ‘Re-entry Link’ program is the most comprehensive service available for transitional managers to refer people to for assistance. The program consists of not-for-profit organisations being contracted to provide services to prisoners.
The Department has a total of 111 service agreements with 51 non-profit agencies that provide services aiding prisoner reintegration. The total value of these service agreements was $30.7 million in 2014/15.
Transitional services and the Re-entry Link program are considered positively by prisoners however the ever-increasing prison population has led to services becoming over-stretched and difficult to access in some prisons. While it is not possible to examine every aspect of re-entry service provision in Western Australia, this report sought to determine whether transitional and Re-entry Link support services provided prisoners with the best possible prospect of successful reintegration.