NSW Parliamentary Committee on Prisons

This cross-party committee found that prison policy should ‘be part of an integrated approach to reducing crime and premised on the principle that imprisonment should only be a measure of last resort’. While the committee was not unanimous on the need for a new jail at Windsor, it did agree that:
‘the decision to build a new women’s facility should be subject to more rigorous scrutiny in light of the possible alternatives, the recent drug court results and the likely and actual impact of the Crimes (SENTENCING PROCEDURE) Act 1999. Such scrutiny should include an analysis of the cost, both capital and recurrent, of the new facilities against effective alternative means of dealing with the increased population.’ (7.45)

‘This cost-benefit analysis should then be used by the Government to determine whether the building of a new jail should proceed. The committee recommended that the review process should include independent persons such as: the Inspector General for Prisons, representatives of Treasury, groups representing women, and at least one academic with [relevant] research experience’ (7.46).

The committee was unanimous that:

“The Government should be working towards a reduction in the prisoner population and should be taking all reasonable measures to achieve that end. The Committee considers that a reduction is achievable through such measures as the recommendations contained in this report, particularly those relating to the establishment of bail hostels, probation hostels, drug treatment programs in the community and the expansion of transitional centres.”

There were hopes that the drug court program, the court liaison program (designed to divert offenders with a mental illness) and the recent changes to sentencing law (requiring reasons for small prison sentences) would help in this process (7.48). To reinforce a commitment to reducing prison numbers, the Committee called for a moratorium on the number of prison beds for women: ‘The Committee considers that there should be a freeze on the number of prison beds for remand and sentenced female inmates, and that any new jail should only replace existing prisoner accommodation.’ (7.50-51).

This was designed to prevent the expansion of the prison system.

NSW Parliament (2000) Legislative Council Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population, Sydney.

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