REVELATIONS have emerged Correctional Services Minister Corey Wingard has made no approach to the state administration court authority’s chief executive regarding the issue of unplanned discharges from Mount Gambier Prison.
This is despite the minister vowing to approach the Courts Administration Authority (CAA) following talks with a Mount Gambier high-level delegation two weeks ago.
It is understood Mr Wingard and Department for Correctional Services David Brown gave a commitment to work with the authority so prisoners are released in a planned manner.
Figures show nearly 400 prisoners were discharged from the Mount Gambier correctional facility over a 12-month period.
It is understood a number of prisoners had been released without adequate warning by the courts, which has proven “problematic” for police.
South East Labor politician Clare Scriven said she was stunned the issue had not been progressed by Mr Wingard nor the Department for Correctional Services given the seriousness of the issue.
“Why are the concerns of the local community such a low priority for the minister?” Ms Scriven questioned yesterday.
Ms Scriven – who is the Legislative Council Opposition deputy leader – yesterday quizzed CAA chief executive Julie-Anne Burgess during parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee on the issue.
The Labor MLC said Ms Burgess revealed the courts authority had not received any correspondence from Mr Wingard nor the department on this matter.
“I was surprised by the news there had been no approach from either the minister or corrections as yet about this issue,” Ms Scriven said yesterday.
“I think the local community would have expected action by now, given the commitments that were apparently made by the minister at the recent meeting.”
Ms Scriven said she had expected there would have been some approach by this time and therefore asked again for confirmation from Ms Burgess.
“I asked her again whether there had been any correspondence at all from either the minister or the department about this issue and she again confirmed there had been none,” the key Labor figure said.
In a statement from Mr Wingard’s office yesterday, a spokesperson said the issue would be discussed in coming weeks.
“Minister Wingard has been advised the chief executive of the Department for Corrections will be meeting with the Chief Magistrate in the coming weeks where this issue will be raised and discussed,” a spokesperson for the minister said.
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell – who organised the meeting with delegates from Mount Gambier City Council and Grant District Council – said yesterday he would follow-up the matter with Mr Wingard this week following Ms Scriven’s statement.
The Mount Gambier delegation – which included Mr Bell – conducted roundtable talks following the issue being highlighted by The Border Watch in a series of exclusive stories.
The meeting came less then two months after The Border Watch revealed many prisoners are not being forced to return their place of residence.
In a statement released after the September 10 meeting, Mr Bell said he hoped the minister’s assurances would allay the concerns of the Mount Gambier community around prisoner movements.
“We have a commitment from the minister and CEO of Corrections to work with the authority so that prisoners who are discharged with supervised bail conditions are done so in a planned manner,” Mr Bell said at that time.
He said an issue arose where persons held on remand were released by the court without adequate warning.
The independent MP 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.
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.