Mrs POWER: Can the minister explain to the house why reducing recidivism in the state's prison system will deliver better services and lower costs for the community?
The Hon. C.L. WINGARD (Gibson—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services, Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing) (14:49): I thank the member for Elder for her question and her dedication to and support for helping reduce recidivism, as this government is very focused on, and also her support for women offenders in the community. Getting people back into and contributing to society is a very important part of our corrections system. We know people in the corrections system and recidivist offenders put a burden on the cost to our community.
Recidivism costs the public hundreds of millions of dollars, and that is money that could go into health, education and emergency services, and back into better correction services—not to criminals. In 2018-19 alone, nearly $200 million was spent by taxpayers accommodating individuals who had been in prison more than once. Almost $100 million was spent by taxpayers on individuals who returned to prison within two years.
That is a cost to the community that we want to reduce. While there are some in the system who will never and should never be released, the government will continue to do what it can to ensure that those who go back into society stop taking and start giving.
The Hon. Z.L. Bettison interjecting:
The SPEAKER: Member for Ramsay!
The Hon. C.L. WINGARD: The member for Elder, in her capacity as Assistant Minister for Domestic and Family Violence Prevention, is a champion of wanting to ensure people, particularly women, stay out of prison. Together we have established a women offenders working group, and I thank the member for Elder for chairing that group.
There is a wide range of people in this group who will contribute to helping us achieve our goals. I would like to inform the house of them because they are fantastic members and, again, with the member for Elder I'm sure they will get great outcomes: Helen Connolly, Commissioner for Children and Young People; Nicole Dwyer, CEO of Workskil; Maria Hagias, the chief executive of Women's Safety Services SA; the Hon. Di Laidlaw; Sarah Paddock, an architect; Nerida Saunders, Executive Director of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation; Kerryn White from Edge Church; and David Brown, CE of the Department for Correctional Services. These are all good people doing good things to help achieve that goal and ultimately reduce costs to the South Australian taxpayer.
Chaired by the assistant minister, this working group met for the first time just a few weeks ago and received an update on a number of strategies the Department for Correctional Services has been working on for the past couple of years that I have talked about in this house previously. Importantly, a direction was set for what we hope to achieve in the next five years, understanding that the Department for Correctional Services cannot go it alone.
We need to continue to partner with the not-for-profit sector, service providers and industry leaders to ensure that women, regardless of whether they are serving time in custody or in Community Corrections, are supported, educated and assisted not to return to our correctional services system. Again, we drive that point that recidivism costs taxpayers. We want people back in the community contributing, serving, paying taxes and being part of our community.
I am pleased to say that the working group will have a focus on women in the community and how we can tailor services to best support the unique needs of women and their children. It is crucial we ensure women are safe, have access to services and are best able to reconnect with and care for their children and their family. Of course, we must also ensure that staff working in our correctional services system, whether they are working in our prisons or in Community Corrections, are also able to identify and address the unique needs of women offenders.
We are fast approaching the completion of an extensive accommodation upgrade at the Adelaide Women's Prison, an expansion that has seen facilities at the Adelaide Women's Prison go from the worst in the country to the best. Delivering these better facilities will deliver better services and help us reach our target of reducing recidivism which, as we said, will ultimately help save money for taxpayers.