Thursday, 7 July 2016
Veterans in the Correctional System
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Supplementary: the minister may have said, but does that work also look at the reasons that lead to former veterans being incarcerated or is it just the number of veterans identified?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): The question that I have asked and the request that I have made of the department in regard to that work is specifically looking at the number. The department for veterans is, as I understand it, the responsible department to be asking questions about why or how a veteran has found themselves incarcerated. I think it is fair to say that someone who has served our country in the defence forces is not a person who you would naturally associate with someone who is inclined not to obey the law—quite the opposite.
There would be a whole range of issues that would contribute to a veteran finding themselves in the criminal justice system, but that work and that analysis, as I understand, would be undertaken by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs federally and also locally. The work that I have specifically asked for the department to undertake is an analysis of exactly who and how many, with the view of being able to share that information where it is appropriate to do so.
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Supplementary: given that, does the minister intend to work alongside the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to find out the reasons, as I respectfully submit that you probably cannot deal with the number unless you understand the reasons why people would end up as part of that number?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): No, I do not have any intention to do that simply because it is not the role, as I see it, of the Department for Correctional Services to be able to deal with issues that might relate to stress factors that have led to veterans finding themselves in the criminal justice system, whether it be PTSD or otherwise. That is the responsibility of veterans-related organisations, as distinct from the Department for Correctional Services.
What is my expectation is that if there is any information that Corrections does collect, should collect, would be of assistance if it did collect at the point of admission to prison, or indeed throughout the course of a veteran’s time in custody, then, of course, I think that the Department for Correctional Services should be taking that responsibility on board and facilitating an exchange of information if it is appropriate and beneficial to do so.
The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Further supplementary: forgive me if I am wrong, but the department of corrections provides rehabilitation programs for offenders or former offenders, so I am not sure where the minister sees the delineation, given that he provides rehabilitation for offenders who are not former veterans yet seems to believe that it is not his responsibility to do so for former veterans. Can he explain the delineation?
The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): Maybe I have not been clear in what I am saying. When asked whether the department of corrections is doing an analysis or work around what has contributed towards a veteran going from being in the service of our country to being a citizen who breaks the law to the extent that they are incarcerated, are they doing that piece of work, to the best of my knowledge the answer to that is no, and it certainly it is not my expectation that they do.
That is a separate issue from looking at ways we can rehabilitate offenders generally, and where it is appropriate to do so have specific programs for specific cohorts of offenders to make sure that prisoners are getting appropriate rehabilitation services or programs catered to their specific needs to be able to maximise the chance of their being rehabilitated and not reoffending. Yes, that piece of work is very much the responsibility of the department of corrections.
If it turns out, through an analysis of numbers, that there is a significant cohort of prisoners within the corrections system who are veterans, who may have unique needs, then, of course, I would be engaging with and looking to the department of corrections to see whether there is a need and a demand for a specific service tailored to veterans’ needs. However, they are two different things.
I am not in any way trying to be dismissive of the question or the issue: I am simply saying that I see a distinction between analyses and pieces of work that should be done that speak to the factors that contribute to a veteran going to prison versus what needs to be done to rehabilitate them once they are in the custody of DCS.