Home Detention Scheme
The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Justice. Will the Minister provide the House with information on the Home Detention Scheme?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: The honourable member asks a good question. The Home Detention Scheme was introduced in 1996 as an alternative to full-time imprisonment. At the time it was introduced there was some controversy about it. The Opposition spokesman, Mrs Chikarovski, said:
The Opposition does not support the bill. In fact it has very grave concerns about it and the whole concept of home detention...
It could have severe detrimental effects on the detainees and particularly on their families. The Opposition is not persuaded that home detention is a cost-effective alternative.
Home detention sadly seems to have no deterrent effect and does not give the prisoner a sense of having been punished.
Those views, of course, were not embraced by the Hon. John Ryan when he wrote the final report for the Select Committee on the Increase in Prisoner Population. He said in that report:
Sanctions such as community service orders, home detention or probation may be more effective in addressing offending behaviour, less expensive to the community and just as onerous on the offender.
I understand now why the Hon. John Ryan voted against Kerry Chikarovski for the leadership. He was joined in that view by none other than Minister Michael Yabsley, who in 1988 said:
The principle of prison being the last resort is what we are about; in other words, getting away from the throw-em-in-the-slammer mentality.
He also said:
Home detention is being considered as a suitable form of punishment.
It is a matter of fact that he never did anything about it, but it is interesting to see how the Hon. John Ryan embraced that issue. Just prior to the last election we had some interesting observations on this issue by the Leader of the Opposition who at that famous press conference on 14 February stated that he would stop home detention for people convicted of robbery. A reporter then asked him:
How many robbers are currently on home detention and how many people is that going to tip into the prison system?
Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor the Opposition spokesman at the time could answer the question. The reporter tried again and asked:
So how many extra people are you forecasting in prison as a result of removing that home detention?
The answer was, "Well, we can't tell you." I can tell honourable members that no-one who has been convicted of robbery is on home detention. Two hundred and thirty-five people are currently on home detention. Fifty per cent of those people are persons who have been convicted of driving offences. Over 2,300 offenders have been admitted to home detention since the scheme began. Five hundred and eight offenders were admitted to home detention, an increase of 20 per cent; 669 offenders successfully completed home detention orders; and 148 offenders have had their home detention orders revoked. The increase in compliance has been quite remarkable—from 66.8 per cent in 1997 when the scheme was first introduced, and that figure is now up to 81.8 per cent.
Recently when I was in Port Macquarie the Independent member, Rob Oakeshott, lobbied me for a rollout of home detention into the Port Macquarie region. Home detention costs the taxpayer $61.83 per home detainee per day. By comparison it costs approximately $120 per day for a minimum-security inmate. Onerous conditions are placed on home detention detainees. They are subject to extensive, rigorous and closely monitored community supervision. The conditions are intended to constrain the offender's liberty to an extent that approximates confinement in minimum-security custody with access to day release programs. [Time expired.]
The Hon. KAYEE GRIFFIN: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister provide additional information?
The Hon. JOHN HATZISTERGOS: Detainees must abstain from alcohol and prohibited drugs. They are subject to random and immediate testing for the use of such substances by probation and parole officers. Detainees can be directed to participate in programs such as alcohol and other drug counselling and gambling counselling. Home detainees have found the going so tough that they have asked in some cases to go back to full-time imprisonment rather than continue with home detention. Home detainees are closely monitored by the probation and patrol officers, who can make up to 20 contacts per month, with 10 of those contacts being face-to-face visits in the detainee's home or the work environment. Detainees are required to wear monitoring devices that are linked electronically to a central database.
New South Wales is leading Australia in the use of electronic monitoring equipment for detainees. Victoria is about to embark on a program that substantially follows ours, with other States to follow. Home detention is available only to offenders who have been sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months or less. Offenders guilty of sexual offences, serious crimes of violence, major trafficking and other specified offences are ineligible for consideration. The Home Detention Scheme is currently available in the Hunter, Illawarra, Central Coast and Sydney areas. In 2004-05 the department proposes to pilot a rural-based home detention program in the mid North Coast region, which would include programs for indigenous offenders. In conclusion, the home detention program is working, it costs less than full-time incarceration, offenders have a sense of being punished, they engage in rehabilitation programs and their reintegration into society is fostered through their ability to engage in employment. Everything Kerry Chikarovski said about the Home Detention Scheme is wrong.