Robyne Cuerel

Regional prison officers working harder with less training

REGIONAL Queensland correctional officers managing dangerous sexual offenders continue to have greater case loads and less knowledge about how to deal with them than their metropolitan counterparts.

The issue, identified in an audit of Queensland Corrective Services in 2011, compared regional case managers supervising orders under the Dangerous Prisoners (Sexual Offenders) Act to High Risk Offender Management Unit case managers.

Auditor-General Andrew Greaves, in a report tabled in Queensland Parliament on Tuesday, said QCS had since developed and implemented operational practice guidelines to manage high risk sexual offenders.

He said specialist sexual offending risk assessment training has been rolled out to all probation and parole case managers to improve consistency between the legislative knowledge in the specialised unit and the regional managers.

Despite those and other support mechanisms within the department, Mr Greaves found "QCS could not demonstrate any improvement in case loads for regional case mangers responsible for high risk sex offenders".

The report, following up on the Queensland Audit Office's 2011 recommendations for managing offender supervision in the community, also detailed how Queensland's low-cost probation and parole service was likely contributing to the increasing number of repeat offenders.

"QCS provides its probation and parole service at a cost well below the national average, but it achieves this with a relatively high offender to staff ratio and without evaluating the effectiveness of all its interventions and programs," the report read.

"The low cost of the probation and parole service provided by QCS is a false economy while the number of offenders returning to the system continues to increase.

"The rate of return has been higher than the national average since 2009-10 and has been increasing, while the national average has not."

Mr Greaves said the challenge for QCS was getting the balance right.

He said investing appropriately in services that reduced reoffending could pay significant dividends in total cost savings, by reducing the prison population and the numbers of offenders being supervised in the community.

Between the 2007-08 and 2012-13 financial years, the percentage of offenders who returned to either probation and parole, or prison within two years of completing their community orders increased from 20.4% to 34.1%.
In 2010-11, when the audit was conducted, the percentage of returning offenders was 30.7%.

"This results in additional workload on the justice and corrections systems and increased costs for the community," the report concluded.

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