Not telling family members where a prisoner is is a dangerous practice, a leading criminal barrister says.
Greg Barns, the chair of the Prisoners Legal Service, said one of the important features of imprisonment is that family members should be told where a prisoner is being kept, particularly if a person is returned to custody.
Rocherlea man Josh Brown, 31, was incorrectly released from Risdon Prison 28 days early, but he was taken back into custody on Saturday night.
Brown was serving a four-month sentence for a number a driving and drug offences, but an outstanding charge was dealt with while he was in jail and an extra 28 days were added to his term.
He was due to be released on December 3, but he was let out of jail on November 5.
Brown’s mother, Wendy Walker, spent the past three days trying to find out where her son was being held so she could deposit money into his prison account – without the money Brown would not be able to call home.
A Justice Department spokesperson said prisoners nominate a primary contact upon induction into custody.
“A primary contact can only be provided with information if a prisoner consents to do so,” the spokesperson said.
Worried about her son’s well being, Ms Walker tried calling police, the remand centre, and Brown’s lawyer and probation officer.
It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon that Ms Walker was able to confirm her son was at Risdon.
Even with that information, it brought little comfort to a mother worried about her son.
Ms Walker is now able to deposit money into an account for Brown, but it will take several days for the money to be processed, meaning it is unlikely Brown will be able to speak to family or friends anytime soon.
Mr Barns said family members are entitled to know where a prisoner is.
“It is a dangerous practice not to inform family members. It causes unnecessary worry and strain between the family members and the prison system,” he said.
The spokesperson said the Tasmanian Prison Service can only confirm whether a prisoner is in custody or not, unless the person is the prisoner’s primary contact.
Mr Barns believes there should be briefings or some form of communication to families to ensure they know where in the prison system their family member is.
The Examiner spoke to Brown after he was incorrectly released and he described being in a state of legal limbo.
He wanted to start planning his future and settling back into home life, but he was held back by the possibility of returning to jail.
Brown was the eighth-known prisoner to be incorrectly released since 2015.