New SA Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Act 2021 Assented
On 8 April 2021, the Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Act 2021 (SA) (‘the Act’) was assented. Its corresponding Bill was initially introduced to the House of Assembly on 13 May 2020 by then Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services Corey Wingard (‘the Minister’).
The Act makes various amendments to the Correctional Services Act 1982 (SA) (‘the CSA’), in order to enable the Department for Correctional Services to improve and enhance prisoner and offender management, whilst promoting a strong rehabilitative culture. The Act is yet to commence.
Amendment to Correctional Services
In his second reading speech in the House of Assembly, the Minister described the Bill as an “important reform... giving more weight to victims, changing the process for re-release on parole of life-sentenced prisoners and expanding on the powers of the chief executive of the department”.
Part of the amendments to the CSA includes the insertion of an objects and guiding principles section at the beginning of the Act. This section highlights the objectives of the Act, which is to:
“reflect best practice for achieving a balance between the requirement to safely and securely manage prisoners whilst promoting the rehabilitative and reintegration needs of prisoners and offenders. It also acknowledges the importance of respecting the rights of victims of crime and promotion of community safety”.
The Minister continued on to outline some of the main amendments to the CSA provided for by the Act, which includes:
- The introduction of new staff management provisions, including those which compel staff participation in post-incident reviews and investigation processes
- New powers for the chief executive to remove and/or re-allocate duties among officers or employees in correctional facilities, where the chief executive “does not have confidence in an officer or employee’s integrity, honesty or conduct”
To ensure South Australia’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture ('OPCAT'), the Act also introduces an “official visitors scheme”. The Minister explained that the scheme will establish a “group of independent, appropriately skilled visitors that meet [the requirements of] OPCAT”. The scheme will assist in meeting the prisoners’ needs, such as mental health and wellbeing needs.
Amendments to Protect Victims
The Act also amends the CSA to ensure that “victim impact … is taken into consideration, particularly with respect to Parole Board decisions”. The Minister said that throughout the reform process, they considered “the views, expectations and impact of decisions on victims”.
Victims will also be further protected through changes to prisoner mail provisions. Under the Act, prisoner mail will be limited “to prevent prisoners from direct or indirect contact with victims or anyone associated with their offending”.
The Act also makes amendments regarding situations where “damages are paid to a prisoner and subsequently quarantined for victims to make claim”. In this situation, the Act provides that where no victims have made claims, 50% of the funds will be credited to the Victims Crime Fund, while the other 50% is “to be used by the prisoner for rehabilitation and reintegration at the conclusion of their sentence”. The Minister noted that this reflects the idea that victims and the community would expect that prisoners should not receive substantial compensation.
The Act makes several other amendments to the CSA, including:
- Introducing prison buffer zones, within which activity such as possession of drugs and possession of unauthorised mobile phones will carry increased penalties;
- Reforming the law on automatic parole so that prisoners with an offence of drug dealing or trafficking cannot receive automatic parole;
- Expanding the types of offences that are subject to review by the Parole Administrative Review Commissioner;
- Introducing provisions to deal with the emerging security issue of remotely piloted aircraft (drones); and
- Making provision for situations in which restraints may be applied to prisoners.
The Minister noted that these amendments were made with the intention of striking a balance between providing a high level of prisoner and offender management, providing a “strong rehabilitative culture”, while also having the “interests of victims at the forefront”.
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Correctional Services (Accountability and Other Measures) Amendment Act 2021 (SA), Bill, second reading speech and explanatory memoranda available from TimeBase's LawOne service.