Correctional Services (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill

Second Reading

I rise to speak on the bill to amend the Correctional Services Act. The bill essentially makes provision for the undertaking of drug testing in respect of the workforce in our prisons and, importantly, to provide for the enforcement to restrict visitation by way of prohibition to those who may be associated with serious and organised crime. These are important initiatives. They are consistent with an election commitment of the government. I commend both speakers and, in particular, the minister for promptly bringing this matter before the house so that it can be advanced.

Recently, I had the privilege to be the acting Minister for Police and Correctional Services. During that time, I attended Fort Largs Police Academy for a graduation ceremony of the next class of correctional officers. It was a terrific day, and I complimented the South Australia Police for making available the facilities to enable the training of our next generation of correctional officers. They are a very diverse group and they are very enthusiastic.

As I happened to be the acting police minister on the same day, I thank myself for that purpose. It is a privilege to be given an insight into the extraordinary work that our minister has to do in ensuring that our prisons provide for both the safety and security of the community and also the rehabilitation of those who are incarcerated.

One aspect that is very important in ensuring the rehabilitation of those who are in prison is to ensure that the working relationship between the correctional officers and those who are incarcerated is operable. To that extent, I mean the significance of protecting correctional officers in respect of the prisoners themselves having sufficient activity to ensure that they are not a problem other than for the pure security of the prison.

Drugs in that environment can clearly impede the capacity of a correctional officer. They are illegal and of course, if transferred to a resident at the prison, can make it more difficult, not only by perpetuating any habit they may have but obviously in their conduct of the consequence. It raises to a volatile and potentially very dangerous level the relationship within the community in the detention or prison facility, in addition, of course, to being completely illegal.

It is an important initiative. I want to thank the correctional officers themselves and their union representatives, who worked towards stepping up to support this initiative and also followed in the footsteps of the South Australian police, again working with their association to say, 'We are ready to have this reform, to be part of a program that is going to make it safer for us and better for those who are incarcerated.'

In the course of the brief period as acting minister, I was able to meet with Mr Brown, the chief executive of Correctional Services in South Australia. Through other forums I meet with him and the minister for corrections, and he has continued an impressive leadership in this difficult area. He knows my view on two things. One is that obviously we as a government need to work with Corrections to try to restore the provision of services for newborns to women prisoners. I will continue to advocate for that in this house and, as we are now in government, to advance that. I know the minister is sympathetic to the restoration of that service, which has been cruelly cut out by the previous Labor administration, but we will work assiduously to remedy that.

My second area of concern is that we make sure that we provide rehabilitation and opportunity for those in custody to be skilled in the workforce. In that regard, we have national parks and public areas that need maintenance and servicing, including, for example, animal enclosures in Cleland Park, in my electorate, one of the biggest municipal parks in metropolitan Adelaide, which tourists and local people flock to.

We need to make sure pests in those parks, including olives and others that infest our public areas, are kept under control. Mr Brown knows very clearly my view, and I am pleased that he has warmly received a request to look at how we may better utilise and provide for skills advancement of those resident in prison so that they can visit these areas and make a constructive contribution, not only to the community but also to their own skilling and to their own pride in making a contribution in this area. He has been very receptive to that. I have, via the Minister for Environment, also met with the acting head of the environment department, Mr Schutz, and he, too, has indicated that he is willing to work with the new government to see how we might advance the opportunities for those prisoners.

I was very sad to read this week, initially in the media, reports of a prisoner who was allowed to escape a custodial sentence, partly based on the fact that a counselling service to help remediate his anger and unacceptable behaviour was not available until late 2019. It is just so inappropriate that we would incarcerate people and not be able to provide them with exactly the service they need to make them a decent citizen to go back into the community.

These are all areas that I know our minister is very mindful of in trying to advance for the benefit, not just the protection, of South Australians, and in making sure that when our custodial residents in our facilities do ultimately come back into the community after being released from a secure facility they are good, decent citizens who are able to constructively contribute back into the community when they come to live next door to you or me. I commend the bill.