Nanny’s grip could be getting tighter for ex-cons, with Queensland set to be the first to begin individual assessment and banning of parolees from pubs and clubs.
In a first for Australia, every Queensland convict up for parole will have their life habits assessed, with the aim of lowering rates of reoffending by considering the person’s history and circumstance, and applying conditions, such as where and with whom they associate.
Most offenders will be ordered to avoid contact with certain people and favourite locations.
In Queensland, the rate of reoffending within two years by released prisoners is around 50 per cent. A secret trial last year at Inala probation and parole office saw this reduced to around 35 per cent.
The system stems from a pilot study by Griffith University’s Dr Lacey Schaefer, who has been commissioned by Government to oversee aspects of a massive new training program for the Probation and Parole Service.
Government has committed to a $265 million program of reform to Queensland Correctional Service (QCS) over six years – the biggest shake-up of the system in 80 years.
The new system comes amid continued concerns in the State about overcrowding. Details are expected to be finalised early 2018.
Dr Schaefer suggests this rate of reoffending could drop as low as 25 per cent, through the targeting of implicit causation of the offender’s bad behaviour.
“So let’s say Bill often goes to the pub with Joe. As a consequence of that kind of unstructured activity, adding alcohol to the mix, Bill and Joe usually end up getting into some kind of trouble together,” hypothesises Schaefer.
“What we might tell Bill, then, is that he is no longer allowed to hang out with Joe if they’re going out to drink. You’re not allowed to go to this pub, you’re not allowed to drink alcohol together.”
While reducing reoffending is a desirable goal both in terms of saving tax dollars and the cumulative effects of crime on society, the pilot is still within the two-year window for the rate of reoffending, so may only be seeing a delay due to disrupted patterns.
What’s more, the system appears to assess implied causation, such as venue and company, in favour of what may be the true underlying reasons so many offenders end up back in jail, such as life opportunities and mental illness*.
*The AIHW finds that nearly half of prison entrants report having received a medical diagnosis of mental disorder.