Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (18:02): My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Corrections, and the action I seek is for him to fund the Keeping Women Out of the Justice System community of practice, and this is supported by the Victorian Legal Services Board.
I am sure that the minister is well aware of the work that this group of organisations does, and it is very good work, but let us not forget that between 2006 and 2016 the women’s prison population in Victoria increased by 75 per cent.
From the Ombudsman’s report in 2015 we found that the number of women in prison doubled compared to the rate of the male prison population. The jump in the number of Aboriginal women prisoners is incredibly stark: a 240 per cent increase in Victorian prisoners, in Victorian Aboriginal women. The remand numbers here are incredibly high.
Corrections Victoria data indicates that in 2017, 39 per cent of all women prisoners were unsentenced, so nearly 40 per cent had not been sentenced at that time. Changes to bail and parole laws are exacerbating this growth in prison numbers. Let us just remember that very few of these women are in there for serious violent crimes.
The Keeping Women Out of the Justice System community of practice have made a funding submission to the government that gives the sad numbers I have just mentioned. Some of the key areas of their submission are to fund early intervention programs and partnerships in order to save on downstream costs; the creation of a specialist women’s list; and the expansion of work development permits scheme.
I have seen firsthand some of this work. I have met with some of the mentors that grab them early. When a woman is first making touches, is hitting the edge of the justice system, they send in mentors that help them navigate some of the more difficult parts of life that some people, particularly people from disadvantaged backgrounds, are struggling with.
Being on a homelessness inquiry, it is no surprise to me that to keep people out of prison we need to provide homes—so there is a request for an increase in homelessness services—and to ensure that people experiencing mental illness get the support they need. I have seen the minister at the women’s prison, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, and I know that he understands this issue. I just implore him to consider fully funding the Keeping Women Out of the Justice System community of practice.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Adjournment matter 19/2/20