A disappointing response to a tight Budgetary environment

Vacro recognises that the Budgetary environment is tight. With only $19.8 million allocated in total this year to “supervise and support” people who are incarcerated, it is clear the government had difficult decisions to make. But when money is tight, it’s more important than ever to fund things that work. Vacro is concerned that the government is spending the disproportionately large sum of $34 million to trial the electronic monitoring of children: a knee-jerk reaction to media outrage with no evidence base. This is disappointing to see in a year where policies and programs that do work to support people to build new lives free from the justice system have not been funded. Despite clear evidence that strong family connection is one of the strongest protective factors against reoffending, for example, there is no money in this Budget for desperately needed family counselling services, or to ease the exorbitant cost of calling family members from prison. The government’s commitment to ‘Helping Families’ in this year’s budget does not, it appears, extend to families caught up in the justice system.

A historic opportunity that must not be missed

In 2022-3 and 2023-4, $75.5 million was spent keeping Western Plains Correctional Centre open but empty. This new and unnecessary prison cost $1.1 billion to build. No announcement has been made about its future, and the costs of maintaining it appear to have been absorbed into the Department’s general operating budget for 2024-5. At a time when occupancy figures are low and decreasing, and many people leave prison with no – or inadequate - support, Vacro questions whether much-needed Budget savings could be achieved by closing the older prisons that must be closed for Western Plains to become operational. We believe that there is a historic opportunity to decrease the size of the prison system and use the savings to fund evidenced-based services that support people to successfully reintegrate into their communities and stay out of the criminal justice system for good. We strongly urge the government to announce a plan for Western Plains and for a reconfiguration of the broader prison system that ensures people leaving prison can create new beginnings for themselves and their families, and thrive in their communities.

For media queries, please contact Senior Policy & Advocacy Advisor Abigail Lewis at 0468 566 218 or [email protected].