Corrections Amendment Bill passes first reading

A Bill to further ensure prison security and the safe and fair management of prisoners has passed its first reading in Parliament today.

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says while the legislation governing the corrections system is working well, the Corrections Amendment Bill makes a number of improvements.

“The Bill will provide further assurance that there is a comprehensive framework for managing prisoners who are at risk of self-harm, and that the assessment, placement and management of these prisoners is thorough, responsive and keeps them, staff and other prisoners safe. 

“A 2016 Corrections study found that 91 per cent of prisoners had been diagnosed with a mental health or substance use disorder at some time in their lives. This is why it is critical we continue to support prisoners who are at-risk or have mental health issues.

“The new framework will build on the $25 million Corrections is investing to pilot new mental health services and develop a new national model of care for at-risk prisoners.

“This will ensure prisoners vulnerable to self-harm receive the therapeutic and individualised support they need to improve their wellbeing and engage in activities that help prevent re-offending.”

The Corrections Amendment Bill will amend and update the Corrections Act 2004 and proposes a number other changes. These include:

  • Amending the definition of a drug to align with the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 so prisoners can be tested for a wider range of drugs, including synthetic cannabis, and be charged with a disciplinary offence in the event of a positive test.
  • Allowing for the use of imaging technology like body scanners to more effectively detect contraband, including drugs and weapons, and reduce reliance on rub-down or strip searches.
  • Making it a disciplinary offence for a prisoner to attempt to have contact with someone that would breach a court order or direction.
  • Making it a disciplinary offence for a prisoner to tattoo another prisoner or consent to receive a tattoo from another prisoner, or tattoo themselves.  

“The changes will also better safeguard the interests of children with a mother in prison. Under the current legislation any decision made about the placement of a baby with its mother in prison is final. The Bill will introduce a review process and grant mothers a statutory right to appeal placement decisions, but will always put the safety, wellbeing and best interests of children first,” Mr Davis says. 

“It’s important our legislation allows Corrections to safely, securely and effectively manage some of our country’s most complex people, while also supporting prisoners to reintegrate back into our communities on release.”

The Bill has been referred to the Justice Select Committee.