Vacro welcomes important bail reforms

This year’s Victorian State Budget delivers on the government’s promise to expand primary healthcare services in the women’s prisons, and to transfer those services to the public system. As a specialist criminal justice reintegration service provider, Vacro welcomes this development. Our position is that public delivery of prison healthcare services is the only way to ensure that people in prison receive healthcare that is equivalent to what they could expect in the community. We hope that a future Budget will expand this funding to cover men’s prisons as well.

Vacro also welcomes the continuation of funding to provide targeted housing for people exiting prison through the Corrections Housing Pathway Initiative. We have been pleased to see this government acknowledge that post-release housing is a crucial component of successful reintegration.

But there is a lot missing from this Budget

However, Vacro is concerned that the momentum gained through effective investments made while the prison population was reduced as a result of COVID-19 – such as last year’s investment in expanding Vacro’s Family Visits program across the men’s prison system – might be undermined by a lack of further investment this year. While we understand that this year’s budgetary environment is tight, the lower prison population and the proposed changes to the state’s bail laws create a unique opportunity to move Victoria’s corrections system toward one that supports people in custody to change the trajectory of their lives and create new beginnings for themselves and their families after their release.

To do that, the government will need to increase funding for specialised reintegration support for people in both the men’s and women’s prison system, including services that strengthen family connections, create employment opportunities, and provide therapeutic support. These services must be delivered by specialist community organisations that can work with participants both pre- and post-release to ensure continuity of care. While there is no money in this Budget for these kinds of services, another $36 million has been allocated to keep a new and unneeded prison open and empty.

We now look ahead to the promise of bail reform, and hope that the next State Budget will be delivered in the context of a smaller prison system and a significantly reduced remand population, meaning substantial, evidence-based investments can be made to better support the people remaining in custody.

For media queries, please contact: Melanie Field-Pimm on 0418 136 861 / [email protected]