Shadow Correctional Services Minister Michelle Lensink says the cut in funding for a prisoner rehabilitation program on the Eyre Peninsula, is indicative of the Rann Government’s ‘lock ‘em up and forget about ‘em’ policy on law and order and a slap in the face for the local community.
“Since the devastating Eyre Peninsula fires in January last year, inmates from the Port Lincoln prison have been working in gangs to help the community rebuild by undertaking bushfire recovery work but funding for the program was not included in this year’s Budget,” said Ms Lensink.
Member for Flinders Liz Penfold said the prison gangs have been performing hard physical work but that it was appreciated greatly by the Eyre Peninsula community.
“It is estimated the fires damaged enough fencing to circle Australia and the prisoners have been replacing this as well as clearing fallen trees, removing debris and pulling down damaged buildings,” said Mrs Penfold.
“This program has given prisoners a chance to be rehabilitated because they are not only performing work which is increasing their self-esteem but it is also giving them the chance to gain employment upon their release.
“Some of the prisoners have become employed upon their release because they had completed courses in chainsaw operations – isn’t this the aim of our prison system, to rehabilitate prisoners, remove them from the criminal system and from the cycle of re-offending?
“People from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are by far over-represented in our prison system. Surely it is the government’s responsibility to help these people become productive contributors to society.
“I honestly find it very hard to understand why the Rann Government is unable to find $50,000 out of their entire budget to continue this program.
“The local community has been involved in the funding of the program with the local Rotary Club’s Fire Funds Committee donating $22,000 for materials, including a tractor.
“The Rann Government has an obligation to give the people they lock up every chance to be rehabilitated – getting offenders off the streets is only the start of the responsibility governments have to these people and the community.”