Ombudsman enquiry into rehabilitation services post prison

Monday 12 December 2016
The Victorian Ombudsman is seeking information from Victorians about their recent experiences with the provision of alcohol and drug rehabilitation services following contact with the criminal justice system.
Individuals, families, community groups and other affected parties are encouraged to contact the Ombudsman’s office to provide their stories or make submissions that will inform an enquiry into the availability and effectiveness of alcohol and other drug services (AOD), particularly in rural and regional Victoria.
Of particular interest to the enquiry are the experiences of ex-prisoners and others in contact with the justice system who have engaged, or sought to engage, with AOD rehabilitation services. Family members of such individuals are also encouraged to take part in the enquiry.
The enquiry will shape the Victorian Ombudsman’s consideration of the key issues in the sector to enable her to decide  whether a formal investigation is warranted. The confidentiality and anonymity of submissions will be respected within the provisions of the Ombudsman Act.
Launching the call for submissions, Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said that effective AOD rehabilitation is a key plank in reducing recidivism among the prison population and intervening with individuals before they engage with the justice system.
‘When I tabled my investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in September of last year, I highlighted the importance of ensuring the availability of suitable programs for people with alcohol and drug problems if the community is to be kept safer and the cost of our prison system reduced.
‘At the time I said: “We know that some alternatives work – independent evaluations of diversion programs confirm their positive impact both on recidivism and the public purse. This is a strong evidence base on which to improve outcomes for the community, the economy and the convicted. There is good practice, both within and outside our prisons, but it is a patchwork of measures in a mix of locations. Why are they not more available across Victoria?
‘This call for individuals, families and those within the community seeking to access rehabilitation for alcohol and drug programs, especially in rural and regional Victoria, takes these findings a step further and seeks to identify ways in which real change can be made for the benefit of all Victorians,’ said Ms Glass.
The enquiry will examine:
  • The experiences of former prisoners referred to community based alcohol and other drug (AOD) services particularly in rural and regional Victoria
  • the efficacy of community based AOD services across Victoria in preventing AOD users in coming into contact with the justice system and in addressing recidivism.
The enquiry follows the Victorian Ombudsman’s 2015 Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria. That investigation highlighted that prisons are obliged to ensure prisoners are linked to community based AOD services to provide ongoing support post-release. The Ombudsman’s prisons report found 75 per cent of male prisoners and 83 per cent of female prisoners reported previous illicit drug use.
About 40,000 Victorians access AOD treatment services each year. AOD use and effective access to rehabilitation services across the state is an issue of significant community concern. 
The Victorian Ombudsman welcomes submissions from the public and relevant organisations on this issue before Friday, 17 February 2017.
The Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria can be found here.
Submissions can be made at: or by calling 03 9613 6222 or (Regional landlines) 1800 806 314

Media contact: Rory Cahill Tel 03 9613 6235 | Mob 0409 936 235