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Jail costs soar as welfare services struggle to meet demand Analysis

Jail costs soar as welfare services struggle to meet demand

Victoria’s prison population and the cost of keeping prisoners in custody is spiralling out of control according to the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) following the release of a report today by the Productivity Commission.

VCOSS is concerned the State Government is now spending more than $1 billion a year on Corrections Victoria at the same time as homelessness, family violence and family support services are struggling to meet growing demand.

VCOSS CEO Emma King said our prison population has grown more than 40% over the last decade.

“People who commit crimes usually have long histories of disadvantage and trauma, with low levels of educational attainment, literacy and employment before entering prison,” Ms King said.

“The best way to reduce crime is tackling these underlying disadvantages by investing in community services that address unemployment, homelessness, mental health and alcohol and drug use,” she said.

“But at the same time as spending on prisons is increasing, the report showed the soaring demand facing child welfare, family support and homelessness organisations.”

“Homelessness agencies are forced to turn away nearly 100 vulnerable and at-risk Victorians every day.”

“And the system is struggling to cope with more than 82,000 reports of child abuse and neglect received last year, up 12% from the previous year.”

The report also showed that Aboriginal people are over-represented in imprisonment rates as well as in child protection rates.

“The dramatic increase in Aboriginal kids in out of home care and Aboriginal over-representation in prison are alarming,” she said.

“Government needs to work with Aboriginal communities and leaders. We need to invest in programs that are culturally safe, developed by and for the Aboriginal community.”

“VCOSS looks forward to working with the Andrews Government to address these critical issues as a matter of urgency,” Ms King said.

Key stats:
From Productivity Commission 2015 Report on Government Services

  • Since 2009-10, prison expenditure has increased 32%
  • 39.5% of Victorian prisoners returned to prison within 2 years, up from about 35% two years ago.
  • The daily average number of Aboriginal prisoners increased by 20% between 2012-13 and 2013-14.
  • The daily average number of female prisoners increased from 342 to 403.
  • 92 Victorians who needed accommodation and other support were turned away each day from homelessness agencies. This number jumped from 79 in 2012-13.
  • The number of Aboriginal children in out of home care increased by 40% between 2012-13 and 2013-14. Aboriginal children are now in care at 12 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children.
  • More than 82,000 reports of child abuse and neglect were received by the Victorian government in 2013-14; a 12% increase.