The Victorian government’s tough-on-crime agenda is driving up the prisoner population at a higher rate than any other state, justice advocates say.
But a state government decision to stop publishing independent data on what is happening inside jails is reducing transparency at a time when the jailing rate is at its highest since 1898, the state’s peak welfare body says.
Victoria’s inmate population jumped 11 per cent to 9134 in the past year, the fastest rate of any state, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) quarterly figures released Thursday.
Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King says while the number of Victorian prisoners is rising, the accountability of what is happening inside the jails is decreasing after a government decision to stop publishing an independent statistical profile of the system.
Ms King says in the past the annual data has helped offer a detailed picture of significant issues such as deaths in prison, young people in solitary confinement and spiralling rates of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C among inmates.
“There’s nowhere else that data’s compiled in the same way,” she said.
“If we don’t have this statistical profile, it’s just another measure of government accountability that’s disappearing.”
But Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue’s spokesman says a decision to no longer publish the profile was taken more than two years ago and the figures are already published in other sources.
“It is difficult to fathom criticism about the release of figures on a day when comprehensive figures have been released,” he said.
He said as the ABS releases quarterly figures on the state’s prison population and the Productivity Commission does the same annually based on figures supplied by Corrections Victoria, it was seen as unnecessary for Corrections Victoria to also publish these figures.