Prison's 11,400 leave passes

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 03 Mei 2013 | 19.55

TASMANIA'S prison system is issuing 20 times more leave permits for inmates than four years ago in a bid to link more inmates with the community.

Corrections Minister Nick McKim said yesterday the number of leave passes, which allow prisoners outside the prison gates for education, work opportunities and family reasons, had increased from 589 in 2008 to 11,402 last year.

"This is about delivering safer communities," Mr McKim said.

"We are trying to help inmates build the life skills, get the education and form the relationships with prospective employers that will help them with their transition back into the community and this will ultimately help us to make the community a safer place."

The news comes as Mr McKim announced a suite of programs inmates have been working on in the community.

Inmates have retained traditional relationships with the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens and Government House. Inmates also work on setting up the Taste Festival site, helping at the Dogs Home of Tasmania, continuing clean-up work at the Risdon Vale Creek area, tending to a community garden in Risdon Vale and working with the City Mission every week collecting donations of furniture and bric-a-brac.

Football umpiring that started in 2011 has also been continued this season, with six minimum security inmates umpiring at weekends.

And Mr McKim announced for the first time prisoners have been working at the Lea scout camp at Kingston constructing a flying fox, fitting out the stairs and safety equipment in the climbing tower as well as extensive maintenance to trails and bush areas on the property.

New programs in the pipeline include minimum security prisoners conducting general maintenance and restoration of the historic buildings and grounds at the Penitentiary Chapel, computer refits for charities and worm farming, taking advantage of the vast horticultural work and training being done in Tasmania's prison system.

Acting Prison boss and inaugural change manager Brian Edwards said despite concerns in the community that inmates would escape from custody, it is not the case.

One high profile escape from day release last year prompted a review of risk assessments and no further breaches have been recorded since, Mr Edwards said.

He said from his experience in other countries 11,000 leave passes would translate to six or eight escapes a year.

"If we just separate them they will never get included into the community," Mr Edwards said.

Corrective Services director Robert Williams said extra time in the community was in line with the "Breaking the cycle" strategy aimed at reducing recidivism and keeping the community safer.

"If they come out and we haven't done a good job in prison they will come out worse," Mr Williams said.

"It is not just a secure fence that keeps the community safer -- if they come out worse they are not safer."

In line with a push for greater engagement with the community, family days have been expanded at the prison, growing from one or two a year to about one a month.

Mr Edwards said training was also being tailored to industries like horticulture that gave inmates the greatest possible chance of getting a job when released.

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