The incorrect release of nine prisoners in the past four years would come as no surprise to those that know the Tasmanian prison system is overcrowded and under pressure.
United Voice earlier this year highlighted several issues within the Justice Department and stressed that a lack of forward planning would only see systemic problems multiply.
According to United Voice, staffing levels have remained stagnant despite the number of people incarcerated in Tasmania growing by 28 per cent in the past four years with worker compensation claims on the rise.
Labor says the government's decision to cut $28 million from upgrades to government ICT during its first term has not helped, and, when adding that information to Risdon being in regular lockdown, prisoners escaping custody and the botched releases of inmates - it's hard to argue that the system doesn't need an overhaul.
A Northern Prison would help, however, a decade until it is fully operation is too long to wait and it's certainly not the silver bullet.
There needs to be a string of administration changes and it appears the Hodgman government is about to implement a measure used in other Australian jurisdictions that may alleviate some issues.
The government says a new Sentence Management Division would employ seven specialist full-time staff to take over responsibility for:
- Interpreting warrants and imprisonment orders;
- Conducting sentence calculations;
- Ensuring accurate record-keeping;
- Liaising with Tasmania Prison Service and the courts; and
- Authorising releases.
There are still three steps to go until it is fully rolled out by July next year but coupled with a streamlined court process and implementation of a single registry for all courts will surely improve the substandard practice in place now? Human error has been blamed for several prisoners being released early or late, and people do make mistakes, especially when under pressure.
But mistakes also happen when there are cracks in workplace processes and that is clear cut within the department.