Too often recently we are hearing about public services that are failing due to budget cuts and unfilled vacancies. These are the direct consequences of austerity.
One area we are seeing this is our prison service. Corrections is vital to turn lives around and keep communities safe. But when understaffing in the system is ongoing and other public services around Corrections like housing are also experiencing under resourcing: the consequences are significant? Lockdowns happen when there are too few staff employed to safely operate a prison due but the long-term outcomes of these lockdowns impact on the whole community.
Last week we heard in the media that lockdowns are continuing at Risdon Prison Complex (“Tasmania’s Risdon Prison Complex sent into lockdown despite new strategy“)
This week in the news we were told that lack of housing is impacting on those leaving prison, with more than half exiting into homelessness and more than half of these people will end up back in prison (“Inquiry hears housing and service shortfalls resulting in failures to rehabilitate Tasmanian prisoners“).
For many years CPSU members in Corrections have advocated for safe staffing levels, because these make for a safer workplace, and mean better outcomes for those in prison. Fewer lockdowns mean increased access to education, training and therapy needed to form a foundation to help inmates to help make a new story once released. It gives them opportunities, a chance to make a better life, which is best for everyone. But lockdowns due to inadequate staffing impinge on this opportunity. We need the Minister to listen to prison staff, and for the Department to work with union members for not only better workplaces and conditions but better lives and communities.
Recently Budget Estimates heard that average out-of-cell hours was down. With the total average out-of-cell hours per inmate per day for the Tasmanian Prison Service for 2021-2022 was 7.7 hours, down from 8 hours in 2020 to 2021, and was sitting at 7.5 hours on 31 March 2023.
The Correctional Officers Agreement is all about improving conditions, which would help provide for safe staffing levels and decrease lockdowns.
For those leaving prison, access to a safe place to live is vital. Despite the focus on ‘social housing’, we know that public housing waitlists are growing year-on year, and it’s public housing that needs more investment, attention, and funding because it operates for the public good, free of external agendas.
Altogether, cuts and vacancies across services are not helping to keep our communities safe and turn lives around. The efficiency dividend means more cuts to these services.
Are you able to share your story via Public Services Watch?
Public Services Watch is a new tool developed by the CPSU for workers to raise their concerns around service disruptions and failures disadvantaging or putting our communities at risk. Whether it’s vacancies left unfilled, program cuts, outsourcing to labour hire, political overreach, impact of unmet demand, or anything else.
You can find it at https://www.cpsu.com.au/pswatch/
You can submit evidence confidentially. We’ll use it to show the Tasmanian community how widespread the problem is and to advocate for change.