I move the motion as set out, but in paragraph 1(d)(iv) leave out the words 'is now dying' and insert the words 'has died'.
1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into the government’s administration of South Australia’s Prisons with particular reference to—
(a) the costs and impacts (upon prison officers, prisoners and the South Australian community) of the combined prison system operating continually above approved capacity;
(b) the government’s forecasted prison capacity in relation to its forecasted prisoner population;
(c) the correlation, if any, between prison overcrowding and the breakdown in proper administration of prisons;
(d) the following incidents which occurred between July and October 2016:
(i) a prisoner given leave to attend a funeral but was prevented from re-entering the Yatala Labour Prison at the appointed time;
(ii) a prisoner convicted of murder and rape was allowed to umpire an amateur football match;
(iii) two prisoners were able to tunnel under a prison fence and gain access to a prohibited area at Port Augusta Prison, then start a truck with the intention of driving it through a perimeter fence and, when noticed, held officers at bay within the prohibited area for four hours;
(iv) a prisoner has died and three prison officers hospitalised following a violent altercation at Yatala Labour Prison;
(v) a prisoner convicted of murder disappeared from a Corrections supervisor;
(vi) the recent seven- hour siege at Port Augusta Prison; and
(e) any other relevant matter.
2. That standing order No. 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.
3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.
4. That standing order No. 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the s elect committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.
I move this motion to establish a select committee into the administration of South Australia's prisons. It was not so long ago that I moved a similar motion establishing a select committee into the culture of the Department for Correctional Services, and many disturbing revelations came to the fore. Whether workplace culture in the department has any effect on the actual administration of our prison system in South Australia remains to be proven. This is something that the select committee may wish to look at, should this motion be successful.
The Corrections system is clearly in crisis and there are no solutions from the government. As late as Friday last week, there were negative media reports linking prison overcrowding to the use of home detention. Home detention sentences have been criticised as too lenient, when compared with incarceration in prisons and the lack of freedom this brings.
It is this reason, that of prison overcrowding, that has prompted this motion. We had the Hon. Kevin Foley's policy of rack 'em, pack 'em and stack 'em, which quickly became an overcrowding crisis. Only a few years ago, we had the Hon. Mike Rann's plan for a new prison at Mobilong, which was abandoned. Then the government's flashy plan, using shipping containers, was short lived, even though it was billed as a cheap way to solve overcrowding issues. The result is the government has no plan and prisons are operating regularly at well above capacity.
This investigation is needed so that, as a state, we can solve these problems once and for all. I would like to see a permanent solution to the overcrowding crisis, so we do not see home detention as being a panacea. This is too important a policy area to be neglected for so long and we can see from recent events listed, over the last four months, that this neglect is having a real effect on the administration of South Australia's prisons. This is a crisis which can no longer just be attributed to the normal risks associated with administering prisons.
Honourable members do not have to take my word for it. The secretary of the PSA, the union representing prison officers, has linked overcrowding with the increase in behavioural incidents in South Australian prisons. On this point alone an inquiry is needed. If common sense of having enough room to accommodate prisoners is not enough, then surely the fact that it increases the risk of violence and other incidents should be enough to spring any government into action. It will be the committee's task to gather this evidence.
To remind the council, I will detail the recent incidents which have led me to the point of moving this motion today: the violent incident at Yatala Labour Prison on 23 September, which led to the death of an Aboriginal man (known as Mr Morrison) several days later; five guards were also hospitalised, at least two of whom sustained serious facial injuries. Neither the minister nor the PSA could link this specific incident to overcrowding, but that is a very hard conclusion to reach—the effect of overcrowding on the behaviour of the general population—and it would take an inquiry, such as this one, which I aim to establish with this motion, to reach that conclusion.
The effects are general and of course it would be very easy to determine that it does not have an effect on one specific incident, as the effects are not tangible on such a level. However, common sense dictates that overcrowding increases tensions, regardless of the setting—prisons even more so, with the sorts of maladjusted personalities within them. It is worth noting that Mr Morrison was actually on remand and yet was being kept at Yatala Labour Prison, a maximum security facility, with the state's most hardened criminals.
The overcrowding problem leads to prisoners and remandees being shuffled around to best suit capacity issues. This leads to those in custody being housed in less than ideal facilities, harming rehabilitation and resulting in recidivism, which is counterproductive to the intentions of the government and the minister. Overcrowding is a far more complex issue than it appears.
A week prior to this incident, on 13 September, at least three dangerous inmates attempted to escape from Port Augusta Prison by tunnelling under a fence and hot-wiring a truck—which they intended to ram through a perimeter fence—before being discovered by prison authorities, held at bay and taken into custody the next morning. Earlier last month, on 14 October, at least 16 prisoners barricaded themselves into the gym at Port Augusta Prison, which led to the prison being locked down and a seven-hour siege arising.
In early September, it arose that, via the minister's new program for reintegrating prisoners into society by having them umpire amateur football matches, a convicted murderer and rapist was allowed to umpire a match. The minister explained on radio that the scheme was instigated by the South Australian Amateur Football League as a means of covering a manpower shortage when it comes to umpires and that there is no doubt that ex-prisoners must be reintegrated in order to limit re-offending.
Questions are raised about the safeguards of such a program and ministerial competence in overseeing such a program. It is inconceivable that coaches and administrators require police checks and good characters, especially when there are minors playing in teams, yet the umpires are not required to meet similar thresholds. This program is something the select committee should be looking at in more detail.
Further examples include the farcical situation where a prisoner was given leave to attend a funeral, yet was prevented from re-entering after presenting, at his own will, at the appointed time. This was put down to administrative error, yet this prisoner remained at large for weeks before being brought into custody. A similar incident occurred in which a convicted murderer escaped supervision of correctional staff whilst on a work detail.
As can be seen from these recent incidents and the many others over the years, coupled with the chronic overcrowding of the prison system, a parliamentary inquiry is urgently required, and I commend the motion to the council.