Sentenced to the sofa – call for more home detention

Angela Kamper
The Daily Telegraph
September 09, 2010

JUDGES are being encouraged to sentence more prisoners to home detention despite a shortfall in “field visits” by corrective services staff meant to check on them.

Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat said detention, which was cheaper than jail, should be more widely used and plans drawn up for offenders to receive more contact visits and drug testing.

“We found there were not enough field visits when offenders are on approved activities outside of the home such as work or attending treatment,” Mr Achterstraat said.

“It is pleasing that, following my audit, field visits and drug testing standards have improved.”

His audit, released yesterday, found 90 per cent of visits from corrective services staff were at homes, with 10 per cent in the field.

A high-priority offender received eight visits a month while low-priority offenders had four. All received “out-of-residence” visits twice a month.

The number of home detention sentences dropped 25 per cent in six years to 175 offenders in the 2008 financial year.

Mr Achterstraat said in appropriate cases the system was a lot cheaper and more beneficial for offenders as it kept them away from the influence and actions of hardened criminals. Offenders were also less likely to reoffend.

Full-time imprisonment costs $187 per day while home detention costs just $47 per day – a $25,000 saving over a six-month sentence.

Nearly half of those receiving home detention sentences in the past five years were convicted of serious driving offences. Fourteen per cent were convicted of deception-related offences and 3 per cent were convicted of drug-related offences.

Between May 2009 and March 2010 one in three home-detention prisoners had their sentences revoked for not following the rules.

In the 2008 financial year, 19 per cent of offenders who had their home detention status revoked didn’t follow their activity plan while away from home while 18 per cent consumed alcohol and 16 per cent were found to have used prohibited drugs

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