Victoria’s housing crisis is leading to more people staying in jail longer with parole applications being rejected and withdrawn due to a lack of accommodation.
New data from the state’s Adult Parole Board 2021/22 Annual Report reveals almost one-third of all parole denials were due to the absence of suitable accommodation or insufficient time remaining on a person’s sentence to find suitable accommodation.
One in four prisoners who withdrew parole applications in 2021/22 self-reported that an absence of suitable accommodation was at least one of their reasons for doing so.
Taxpayers would save more than $25 million over 12 months if all 163 people had been granted parole.
Building more social housing would also reduce crime. According to a University of NSW study, people who received their first public housing after being released had better criminal justice outcomes.
Court appearances were down 7.6% per year, proven offences were down 7.6% per year, time in custody was down 11.2% per year and time on supervised orders went down 7.8% per year.
Council to Homeless Persons CEO Jenny Smith said the figures were yet another reason to invest in more social housing.
“Victoria’s social housing shortfall is now stinging all taxpayers who are footing the bill to unnecessarily keep more people in prison,” she said.
“Housing availability is also a major factor in keeping people out of jail once they are released. Building more social housing is proven to reduce crime.
“Investment in social housing is more cost effective than spending even more on prisons. We can make our community safer while addressing one of the key issues in our society.
“Let’s stop punishing taxpayers for the housing crisis. Every dollar spent on social housing goes a lot further than prison spending.
“Ensuring more people have a safe and affordable place to live reduces crime and boosts our economy.
“It’s crucial the Victorian Government commits to building 6000 new social dwellings a year over the next decade. That’s especially important because the Big Housing Build program is due to run out of money mid-next year.”
The Productivity Commission’s Australia’s Prison Dilemma research paper found Victoria was the most expensive state to keep someone in jail at $421 a day.
That equates to $154,000 a year for each prisoner behind bars.
Victoria led the nation for growth in prison costs which rose 7.3 per cent between 2010/11 and 2019/20.
The research cited evidence that access to stable housing affects whether someone reoffends after being released, while homelessness is also recognised as an important factor in people coming into contact with police.
According to the Adult Parole Board report, 116 denials were related to housing. The cost of housing that number of prisoners averages to prison costs over 12 months.
There were 47 prisoners who self-reported the absence of suitable accommodation was behind withdrawing. The cost of housing that number of prisoners averages to $7.24 million over 12 months.