Breaking the cycle of recidivism
Each year, consultations with frontline Salvation Army services highlight major failures at the exit points of Victoria’s institutional systems. This year, our State Budget submission focuses on the plight of women exiting our prison system, who continue to pay a price well beyond the term of their sentence.
Between 2006 and 2016, the number of women in Victorian prisons went up by 75 per cent. Up to half of those women are on remand, that is, they have not been sentenced for a crime. As we've pointed out before, the growth in Victoria's prison system comes at a great cost to us all. There are, however, some proven ways to cut these costs and keep our community safe for everyone.
While rehabilitation is meant to be a core principle of our justice system, many women come out with the same vulnerabilities that they had when they first entered the system. For instance, almost six out seven women in Victorian prisons used illicit drugs. This suggests that drug treatment services should be a high priority for anyone concerned about crime.
Unstable, unsafe housing, or homelessness, is the most significant factor affecting successful reintegration to family and community post-exit. Women who were homeless at any point after leaving prison were twice as likely to return. On the other hand, stable housing has been shown to be a significant protective factor against recidivism. That’s why we're asking the Victorian Government to provide more housing and rehabilitative support for women leaving prison.
For more detailed discussion about this issue, see The Salvation Army Victoria 2018-19 State Budget Submission.