30 Nov 06 - The Campaign to return all-day visits to Emu Plains
Visiting at Emu Plains came up at the last hearing before the Parliamentary Committee GPSC3 on 17/11/06. Some truth came out and the Department's (DCS) intentions were made clear.
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The intimidation of community support has continued too with the removal of community service orders agency status from Breakout, without any explanation. This follows the banning of visitors who raised concerns, and the removal of the only ex-prisoner from the Women's Advisory Committee after she raised concerns.
DCS admitted that the removal of the all day visits was imposed on the prisoners and visitors, and no attempt was made to get their agreement. (p.10) This is despite DCS evidence before the Committee on 28/8 that it was for prisoners' children's benefit and that prisoners said it is certainly a lot better with the split visits. In fact prisoners and visitors are totally against the loss of their all day visits, and have been intimidated to not protest. That is why these vulnerable women appealed for outside support.
However there was a significant concession by DCS. They agreed that visits are "very, very important" to maintain family relationships and the strength of those relationships reduce recidivism. (p.9)
They admitted that their attempt to involve visitors in a survey was a complete failure. They surveyed 1075 visitors and got 16 responses with one person prepared to be on the Visits Committee. (what fool would believe in a DCS consultation after a decision and the intimidation?!)
DCS still intends to reduce the visits to maximum security standard - 2 hour booked visits and will do so in early December. Only staff demands for more positions paused it.
To add to the mess, DCS told Parliament of a new initiative - to bring in all day visits during the week instead of the weekend! (p.11) That is a time when many families are at work and the family car isn't available! And the visits would be for children only. DCS admitted it hadn't considered what would happen for school age children or negotiated with DOCS who would need to bring some of the children in care, instead of extended family who often did on the weekends. They don't even know how many children currently visit on the weekends, and what effect that would have on the up to 180 visits a day.
To present it to Parliament as a fresh initiative to respond to the uproar, is more dishonesty. In fact the opportunity for all day week visits has been there all the time and it is generally unused for the reasons above, as DCS knows. In practice it is almost unworkable for families. It means the child is dropped off in the morning and the carer has to leave for four hours in this outer metro region, and return to pick up the child.
It is time to accept that DCS is causing crime by its horrendous mismanagement, open dishonesty and lack of goodwill to the concerned community.
We will work with other organisations and supportive politicians to highlight this issue in the lead up and during the upcoming election campaign, to demonstrate that this government has lost control of the Department of Corrective Services. We will demand from government a reversal of the decision to ban all-day visits and strategies to lower the recidivist rate by providing services to support prisoners upon their release and their families.