Correctional Services, Prison Facilities

10 May 2006 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Correctional Services a question on the redevelopment of prison facilities.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The situation of our prisons, in particular the Adelaide Women’s Prison, continues to receive bad press in the media and, out of sheer frustration with the conditions, the inmates actually set fire to the A wing of the women’s prison in March 2004, forcing the government to rebuild it. In reply to questions put to him by a journalist, in September 2004 the former minister, the late Terry Roberts, agreed that the replacement of the women’s prison was overdue and that ‘a major restructure of the prison system would take place in the next 12 months.’ It is now some 20 months since that commitment was made. The government has also advised that some $700 000 has been set aside to ‘examine future prison needs in South Australia’; however, I note that there was no mention of this in the ALP election platform. My questions to the minister are:

1. What is the scope of the study into prison needs, and why is this being delayed?

2. Does the new minister agree with the former minister that the replacement of the Adelaide Women’s Prison is overdue?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services): I thank the honourable member for her question. The department is assessing the infrastructure needs of the state’s prison system, and the government recognises that further investment in prison infrastructure is required if we are to meet our future needs. Our prison system is a challenge—it has been in the past and, by its very nature, it always will be. Various options are being explored to establish the most cost-effective means of meeting future demand and rehabilitation needs for custodial facilities. It is important that we do not see piecemeal work but rather look at the most effective means of meeting future demand. The honourable member is correct in that some money was appropriated for the assessment that is currently being undertaken, and that will be taken into account when determining any future investment. When the assessment is completed and presented to me it will then be presented to cabinet.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. Is the minister concerned at the delay in this report from the government’s original commitment of a 12 month time period?

The PRESIDENT: The minister can answer if she wishes, but the question hardly arises out of the answer.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: In any of these infrastructure developments, it is not unusual to see that particular time lines are not met. As I have said, prisons are a challenge. We will continue to work with the department to ensure that we have the capacity to accommodate our prisoners. I have visited the Adelaide Women’s Prison, and the honourable member is correct in saying that there was a fire in 2004, I think she said it was, but obviously that area has been redeveloped. There are some sections that would be classed as being an old-fashioned way of imprisoning people, but there are some sections that are not, and they appear to be working well. I commend the commitment and the passion of the managers of the prison system at the Adelaide Women’s Prison.