Repeat prisoner rate `too high'

A PRISONER advocate has slammed Tasmania's high repeat prisoner rate, shown in Australian Bureau of Statistics data as the third highest nationally.

But a top government official has argued that the annual Report on Government Services, which shows the return-to-prison rate for Tasmanian offenders has been below the national average for several years, better reflects such information.

ABS data shows that 65 per cent of Tasmanian prisoners in 2013 had been in jail before, compared with the national figure of 58 per cent.

The Tasmanian rate was the third highest nationally, and has been higher than the Australian figure for the past 10 years, according to the ABS.

Prisoners Legal Service Advisory Service spokesman Greg Barns said the high rate of repeat Tasmanian prisoners was proof that "warehousing" people was not cost-effective and exacerbated the problem.

He said it would be cheaper for the government to put more money into rehabilitation programs and supports for prisoners when they were released.

"The government in Tasmania does not invest enough and never has invested enough, in ensuring that prisoners have adequate skills and training opportunities in prison and are then matched up with employment," Mr Barns said.

He said the Post Release Options Project, at Bethlehem House in Hobart, was a good example of a rehabilitation program that needed more money.

But Corrective Services director Robert Williams said the ABS data only showed prisoner numbers as at midnight on June 30, 2013.

He said the best information on recidivist prisoners was the Report on Government Services 2013, which showed prisoners released in a particular year, who returned to prison or community corrections within two years of their release.

"The proportion of prisoners released after a sentence of imprisonment who returned to prison within two years was 36.4 per cent," Mr Williams said.

"This is considerably lower than the national average of 39.3 per cent."

Mr Williams said the prison service offered many programs aimed at reducing recidivism and preparing prisoners for release, including programs which addressed drug and alcohol misuse, anger management and sex offenders.

Law Society of Tasmania president Anthony Mihal said the society supported alternative sentencing options, such as home detention.

Mr Mihal applauded initiatives such as the drug and mental health diversion programs in the Magistrates Courts, because they focused on the underlying causes of offending.

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