Remand prisoners clog SA jails as justice system stalls

18 Dec 2006 archivemedia

Prisoners on remand now account for 35 per cent of South Australia’s prison population according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Shadow Minister for Corrections Michelle Lensink said today.

Ms Lensink said that the rate of remanded prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing had increased by 13 per cent since June 2005 as a result of increasingly unacceptable delays within the South Australian criminal justice system.

“I have had reports that South Australia’s courts are so backlogged that remandees are being housed at Port Augusta, Yatala, Mobilong and this year, the City Watch House,” Ms Lensink said.

“Only in the last week the community has seen lock-downs at Yatala prison due to overcrowding and the Public Service Association advising that correctional staff have concerns for their safety as a result of conditions in the facility.

“The worsening situation has not gone un-noticed. Recently Chief Justice John Doyle took the unprecedented step of making public comments on delays in the criminal justice system.

“He stated that attempts by the courts to improve efficiency are limited by a lack of funding and that he is becoming increasingly concerned about growing delays within the courts, particularly the criminal courts, because the time taken between arrest and determination of guilt or innocence is increasing.

“University of South Australia’s Professor Rick Sarre stated in a recent study into remand that:

‘… remandees are more likely than sentenced prisoners to be homeless, unemployed or have some form of mental disorder … {and} are more likely than sentenced prisoners to die in custody…factors associated with increased remand rates included increasing levels of drug and mental health issues …’

“Commissioner Cappo, Chairman of the Rann Government’s Social Inclusion Board stated in an article only last weekend on prisoners that:

‘This group of people are one of the most ‘in-need’ groups in our population … just placing this type of prisoner in a holding pen is not the answer. They need the most modern and appropriate care for their own – and for society’s – wellbeing.’ (Sunday Mail 10/12/06)

“The Rann Government must look at a more immediate solution to the overcrowding of South Australia’s prisons.

“The ‘super’ prison at Murray Bridge is at least ten years away and does not address the concerns that staff, the PSA and the community at large hold today.”