THE State Government will move to address the “unplanned” release of prisoners held on remand from the Mount Gambier Prison, following a high level meeting in Adelaide this week.
But Correctional Services Minister Corey Wingard says he has no concerns with the current release process for the hundreds of prisoners discharged from the Moorak-based prison over the past 12 months.
Figures show nearly 400 prisoners were discharged from the Mount Gambier correctional facility over a 12-month period.
While sex offenders are forced to return to Adelaide for release, prisoners released without bail conditions are free to move around the state and possibly live in Mount Gambier.
This has fuelled concerns over the impact on crime rates and police resources given the massive expansion of the Mount Gambier Prison.
The Mount Gambier delegation – which included Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell along with City Council and Grant Council officials – conducted round-table talks on the emerging issue on Tuesday.
The meeting comes less then two months after The Border Watch revealed prisoners – released without bail conditions – are not being forced to return their place of residence.
This is despite a long-standing agreement by the department that “all prisoners” are returned to their place of residence.
“The Department for Correctional Services is taking this issue very seriously and they want to work with our community to ensure the number of unplanned discharges are minimised,” Mr Bell said.
“The ideal situation would be that all prisoners are discharged from Adelaide at a known date so it can be a planned discharge. This is best for all concerned, including the prisoner for transport and financial reasons.”
Mr Bell said he hoped the minister’s assurances would allay the concerns of the Mount Gambier community around prisoner movements.
“However, an issue arises where a person who is held on remand is released by the court without adequate warning.”
He said these were described as “unplanned discharges” and could prove “problematic.”
“If the court releases a person from remand at 5pm on a Friday, the prison has no authority to hold that person any longer, even if their parole conditions state they need to reside in Adelaide,” Mr Bell said.
“It is important to note that a person held on remand has not, at that point in time been found guilty of an offence. They are being detained until a future court appearance, at which time their circumstances may change and they are released from remand.”
Mr Bell said it was a complex issue given corrections and courts were two separate entities, however Minister Wingard had given a” firm commitment” the issue would be discussed with the Courts Administration Authority.
“We have a commitment from the minister and chief executive of Corrections to work with the authority so that prisoners who are discharged with supervised bail conditions are done so in a planned manner,” he said.
“The Department for Correctional Services is taking this issue very seriously and they want to work with our community to ensure the number of unplanned discharges are minimised.”