Mental Health Services in the Corrections System – Response

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking questions of the Minister for Correctional Services about the incarceration of people with intellectual disability, acquired brain injury and/or mental illness in the South Australian correctional system.

Leave granted.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: It has come to my attention in the past month that two men who, I understand, have an intellectual disability, mental illness or acquired brain injury, have been inappropriately detained in our corrections system. In the first case the man appears to be in prison because neither State Disability Services nor the Corrections department were able to find a suitable housing solution for him. This man, as I understand it, has no family, friends or advocacy service available to advocate on his behalf and to help him understand his rights.

In the second case, a 19-year-old Indigenous man with a long history of physical and sexual abuse stemming from childhood, as well as foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, limited literacy and undiagnosed mental illness has been back in prison for several months after breaching parole. I understand that there are concerns about how he can be assessed as being fit to comply with parole orders given his various conditions. My questions are:

1.Is the minister aware that a commonwealth Senate community affairs committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia?

2.If so, has he made a submission to this inquiry and, if he has made a submission, did he cite these two cases?

3.Does the minister find it inappropriate that a prison is being used as housing for a man with intellectual disability?

4.How many people with an identified intellectual disability, acquired brain injury or mental illness are currently known to be incarcerated in the South Australian corrections system?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): I thank the honourable member for her well-informed and ordered questions. First, in respect of the Senate inquiry, I am aware from a distance of the Senate inquiry. I am not, at this particular point in time, aware of any particular submission that I or my office are preparing. Having said that, I will take that question on notice in respect to whether there is a desire for the department within itself to be able to make a submission. I also undertake to the chamber and to the honourable member to make some further inquiries as to whether or not there is an appropriateness for us to be able to make a submission to that inquiry.

In respect of the two specific incidents the honourable member raised, again I am happy to take them on notice and ascertain some more information that led to the circumstances that led to those two individuals being dealt with in the way that the member referred. More broadly, on the subject of dealing with patients who are suffering from mental health issues, acquired brain injuries or things of that nature who come to the corrections system, the government is absolutely aware of the challenges that this presents.

It is an incredibly complex area of public policy when someone who enters into our criminal justice system generally, but more specifically into Corrections, is suffering from a mental health issue. It is an area that the government has been seeking to invest additional resources in, particularly when they do come into the correctional system, for them to be dealt with accordingly.

Recently, the honourable member would be aware that only in February this year the government opened a facility at Yatala—that is a very substantial facility investment of millions of dollars from the state government—to be able to better equip those people who work within those fields, including clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, to be able to attend to the needs of those people who are in our corrections system who do have specific mental health needs.

I think that all accept, including the community at large, that this is an area that deserves more attention, and, indeed, may need more investment. But it is complex, and there are a range of variables that contribute to people with mental health issues ending up in the criminal justice system or, more specifically, Corrections.

As I said, I am more than happy to take on notice the questions in regard to the specifics to which the honourable member refers. If the honourable member is so inclined to provide my office with more specific details of the two individuals to whom she refers, I am more than happy to make more specific inquiries in regard to their circumstances within Corrections, and, if it is appropriate for me to do so, I am more than happy to share that information with the chamber or with the honourable member, more specifically, as I am permitted to do so.

The Hon. K.L. VINCENT: Supplementary, sir: just for the minister’s information, and I could be wrong, but it is my understanding (and I wonder whether it is his) that submissions to the select committee actually closed last Friday. It may well be that his department has an extension to make a submission, so could he chase that up as well?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): Like I said, I said from some distance I was aware of the Senate inquiry. I’m not familiar with any specific submission that has been made up until this point. I suspect that if the Department for Correctional Services thought it was appropriate for it to be able to make a submission, then that may have occurred already. I’m not advised of such a submission occurring; I would have expected to be, had it.

For the sake of accuracy, that’s something I want to take on notice just to double-check. I suspect that if there was an intention to make a submission, not only would I already have been advised of it but it would have been made on time. Nevertheless, I am more than happy to make those inquiries, and inform the honourable member and the chamber accordingly.

Response Received 02/11/2016

In reply to the Hon. K.L. VINCENT (13 April 2016).

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety): I am advised:

  1. No submission has been made to the Senate Community Affairs References Committee inquiry.
  2. The Department for Correctional Services (DCS) does not collect data requested in the question.

However, I can advise that the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2015 Report into the health of Australia’s prisoners was developed to help monitor the delivery and quality of prison health services.

Data was collected from a select number of prisoners from 84 per cent of Australia’s prisons. It provides valuable insight, such as 30 per cent of prisoners admitted to custody in Australia reported a long-term health condition, or disability, that limited their daily activities and/or affected their participation in education or employment.

In June 2016, the AIHW released a bulletin using data from the AIHW National Prisoner Health Data Collection and the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey. The bulletin compares medications taken by prisoners with people in the general community. Data provided by South Australia, in relation to prisoners prescribed mental health related medication, indicates the following:

  • 597 prisoners were prescribed antidepressants/mood stabilisers;
  • 238 prisoners were prescribed antipsychotics;
  • 6 prisoners were prescribed anti-anxiety medication;
  • 15 prisoners were prescribed hypnotics and sedatives; and
  • 723 prisoners were prescribed any mental health medication.

It should be noted that prisoners can be on multiple medications at any one time and the data is not reflective of the whole South Australian prison population.

Upon admission to prison, prisoners are appropriately assessed in conjunction with the South Australia Prison Health Service (SAPHS) and information from the South Australia Police (SAPOL), to determine their risk and needs. Prisoners identified during this process as having an intellectual disability and/or mental illness are provided with appropriate supports.

Services available to prisoners are provided through forensic mental health services, SAPHS, Disability SA, the department’s high risk assessment teams and departmental psychologists.

DCS actively supports the state government’s commitment to the creation and implementation of Disability Access and Inclusion Plans (DAIP) a cross government agencies. The department’s DAIP is informed by key strategies and policies relevant to DCS and the criminal justice system of South Australia. The Attorney-General’s Department Disability Justice Plan 2014- 17 is the overarching framework and seeks to ensure that the criminal justice system is accessible and responsive to the needs of people with disability.