Corrections Victoria’s prison sports programs will recommence with strict new eligibility criteria and safeguards as part of a series of reforms by the Andrews Labor Government.
The Labor Government ordered a wide-ranging review of the program last year, which has been operating for around 70 years, and is currently running at Beechworth and Dhurringile minimum security prisons.
The program is strongly supported by AFL Goulburn Murray, the Kyabram District Football and Netball League and its 14 supporting clubs, who have all been consulted on the changes.
Under the reforms, which go further than the review’s recommendations, offenders convicted of a Category 1 offence under the Sentencing Act 1991 and those convicted of manslaughter, including coward's punch deaths, will no longer be eligible to take part in prison sports programs.
Category 1 offences include convictions for murder, rape, child sexual offences, serious drug trafficking and cultivation offences, and causing serious injury intentionally or recklessly in circumstances of gross violence.
Other serious violent offenders, including those charged with category 2 offences like culpable driving, must serve at least two-thirds of their minimum non-parole period before applying to the Ministerial Community Advisory Committee who will then decide if they can take part in the program.
The committee, currently chaired by former Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Neil Comrie, includes members of Victoria Police, Corrections Victoria, a victims of crime representative and three members of the community.
The permits for the program will be issued with strict conditions, including that the prisoner must not consume alcohol. Only prisoners with the lowest security rating are eligible for these permits.
It will also take into consideration a prisoner’s remorse, their behaviour in prison, and the rehabilitation programs they have completed.
Work to implement the reforms has already commenced, with the program to be reinstated in the coming months. Corrections Victoria will work with the Victims Support Agency to develop a victim engagement process to ensure victims are better informed when an offender is participating in a prison sports program.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Corrections Ben Carroll
“We’ve listened to the concerns of victims to make sure that only certain types of prisoners are able to take part in these programs.”
“These reforms are aimed at striking the right balance between supporting prisoner rehabilitation and the concerns of victims.”
Quote attributable to Corrections Victoria Commissioner Dr Emma Cassar
"Corrections Victoria will continue to work with the Victims Support Agency and the clubs and leagues to implement these reforms as quickly as possible."
Reviewed 19 August 2020