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Members at Risdon Prison finally receive allowance they are entitled to

TODAY a number of CPSU Members in the Department of Justice will finally receive back pay after a hard fight to prove they were eligible for the Correctional Facilities Allowance (CFA).

 

It comes after the non-custodial staff were initially knocked back several years ago and this time around it took eight long months to finally get the nod.

Members wrote their applications in November last year after a successful case with Education employees. Finally in June the Tasmanian Industrial Commission recognised that these Members did indeed deserve this allowance. There were hurdles along the way and this claim required quite a lot of effort, perseverance and working closely with their union.

 

On Monday the CPSU met with Program Facilitators Melanie Smith, Jo Harvey and Katie Duggan who work in Sentence Management Support & Reintegration at the Risdon Prison Complex (RPC). All three work with offenders every week in their various programs so it simply made sense they should receive the CFA. They talked about their job and why their claims’ acceptance means so much.

 

Melanie, a facilitator in the New Directions sex offender treatment program, has been at the RPC for five years.

 

“The back pay and additional allowance we have received is an acknowledgment of the complex and challenging job that we do. Although the programs are slightly different from one another, most of them are criminogenic programs. This basically means that we target the factors that are changeable but directly associated with an inmate’s crime patterns. For instance, pro criminal belief systems, drug and alcohol behaviour, and attitudes. In order to target and hopefully change these things is quite a complex and difficult job which requires skill and commitment.

“Inmates are at different levels in terms of their stage of change. Some are motivated and ready to understand that their behaviour is something they need to look at and address. Whereas others have not reached that level of insight and are resistant to change. Groups encompass all of these people and our job is to manage and facilitate this dynamic. Programs can include 10-15 inmates at a time, with two facilitators running the program.

 

“For each individual there is also an assessment process. This helps us to identify l criminogenic factors related to each person and tailor a treatment plan specifically for them whilst they are involved in individual the group process. So whilst we are working with a group and managing a group dynamic, we are also working with individuals within a group setting. It’s a whole mix of different personalities and individuals at different stages of change so it can be very challenging.”

 

Both Jo Harvey and Katie Duggan are facilitators for an intensive drug and alcohol program in Medium Education called Pathways. Katie’s been in the job for just over a year and Jo for about nine months.

“It’s confronting for both them and us sometimes,” Jo said. “Even for those people in the programs who are quite motivated they still are quite confronted at times because the programs are quite challenging – they bring up things they haven’t thought about before and talking about things that are quite personal, which can be upsetting.”

 

“It’s challenging, our work often gets strong reactions from participants and quite often, one of the big things that came up with our claim was, often we’re not in the line of sight of officers, so we often have to deal with this by ourselves. We’re in that position every time we run a session with somebody. The people we work with quite often have a history of impulsive behaviour and may have a history of violence. So the CFA is acknowledgement that we’re in that position all the time.”

 

Inmates can be in the New Directions program for up to eight months. Their time in treatment correlates with their risk; whereas the drug and alcohol programs are psycho-education, involving modules that everyone works through at the same time. The Pathways drug and alcohol program goes for about three and a half months, whereas New Directions is a year-round rolling program.

The number of sessions per week depends on what programs are happening at the time, with often a number of programs running concurrently.

 

“The Pathways program is three group sessions per week, and everyone has individual sessions in-between that,” Jo said. “The group sessions normally run for two hours at a time. There are also additional responsibilities attached to that around prepping for group, debriefing, caseloads, assessments and that kind of thing.”

 

The CFA claim was a drawn out process, with ups and downs along the way.

 

“As a team we were confident we met all 8 criteria,” Melanie said. “Logically it made sense, having read the arguments put forward in the Education case and some of the things outlined by the Industrial Commission. For instance we knew we worked in the same rooms and under the same conditions as the Education staff.

“It also opens the door for other non-uniform staff. There are a quite a number of people working in Sentence Management Support & Reintegration in Therapeutic Services, Case Coordination – they too work with inmates on their own who are assigned to them. Our win opens the door for them as well as being an acknowledgement of the great work they do.

“A lot of work went into the application but we were confident that we met the criteria – it wasn’t a stretch. We were able to provide a number of examples, and there are examples that come up every week in how we work with inmates that are direct examples of meeting all 8 criteria. It wasn’t something we had to go digging for it was just a matter of putting the pieces together.

“Looking at some of the policies, legislation and our job criteria, they all indicated that we met the CFA criteria , so we were able to meet it on quite a number of levels.”

 

To others who are possibly eligible for the allowance, these Members have this to say.

“Keep fighting it if you believe you fit the criteria and you’re entitled to it,” Jo said.

Melanie agreed. “Don’t be intimidated, don’t give in or be put off by a process being drawn out. Yes it’s frustrating. By all means do your homework but if you feel quite confident and have a sense of justice about something, you should go for it. Also work closely with your union. Celeste (CPSU Industrial Officer Celeste Miller) was really great at keeping us informed throughout the whole process. She was really open to questions, so I’d encourage that kind of relationship. We were able to run examples by her and ask ‘is this relevant?’ ‘Is this worth pursuing?’ So use your union rep to stay on track and know what’s relevant and what’s not.

 

“This is an acknowledgement that our work is challenging and complex. Whilst we might meet the criteria in a different way from uniform staff we still fit the criteria. It’s recognition that we work with inmates on our own. They are assigned to us and we’re in the business of addressing offending behaviour.”

 

Industrial Officer Celeste Miller said these Members were incredibly deserving of this allowance. “They perform challenging and multifaceted work in the face of inherent risks and this is precisely why the CFA was created.”

 

“The Department was never going to make this easy for applicants. When these Members first put in their application they were ignored by the Department. That is when they approached us for assistance. The Department continually used every tactic to stall the applications in an attempt to dissuade the Members but it is a credit to them that they stood their ground and banded together. I told employees from the start that we would get results when all of the worksite join together as union Members and support one another and this is exactly what occurred.”

 

“It is particularly helpful when Members are willing to work with us to build strong applications. We do not have extensive knowledge of each individual position and what is required; this is where it is important that there is clear, detailed evidence from the Members. We can then collate that information into a strong application and advocate on behalf of the members, but that core information from members is the most crucial step.”

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