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Reducing recidivism in the prison population

Reduce adult reoffending following release from prison by 5% by 2023.

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Why is this important?

Reducing reoffending has become increasingly important given the growing numbers of offenders leaving prison. A small group of persistent offenders, many of whom have multiple and complex needs, are responsible for the majority of serious crimes in NSW. These offenders will be the focus of a refreshed strategy aimed at breaking the cycle of reoffending and offending more broadly. 

Achieving this 5% reduction in reoffending for those who have been to prison will help break the cycle of reoffending, with fewer individuals committing serious crimes such as sexual assault, drug dealing and burglary. 

How are we tracking?

The rate of reoffending among our most serious offenders is on the rise. In 2017, 26.8% of those released from prison reoffended within 12 months. This was 16.5% higher than the reoffending rate in 2011. This increased again to 29.4% in 2018.  

This is not an easy target as the reasons for offending are very complex and cannot be addressed by justice agencies alone. Work is underway to try to turn this tide and provide effective rehabilitation to reduce the rate of reoffending in NSW. This includes other agencies supporting people who have exited prison and vulnerable people in our community with their health, housing, family support, education, employment and other needs.

Download the Reducing recidivism in the prison population data information sheet (PDF, 149.49 KB)


What are we doing? 

The creation of the Department of Communities and Justice comes with a commitment to collaborate across the agency to ensure better outcomes in relation to reoffending behaviour in those released from prison.  

We are now working on ways to ensure that prisons provide an environment that better supports and enables rehabilitation. We are investing in technology and increasing the reach of our programs with a focus on delivering programs and services to those offenders who will benefit most from them, to help them stop reoffending. Just some of the initiatives underway include: 

Increasing program hours to the highest risk offenders to ensure that a greater proportion of these offenders receive the level of treatment or services that evidence suggests is needed to be effective.  It is critical that higher risk offenders, including those serving shorter sentences, receive appropriate support to reintegrate into the community, as well as education, employment and program opportunities to give them the best chance to not reoffend.  We will increase the average hours of treatment to at least 160 hours for 3000 higher risk offenders exiting prison each year.

This initiative focuses on women who are parents, and people exiting prison who have a serious mental illness. We are working to address broader issues and strategies to help with the complex needs of people in these two groups. 

For people who have serious mental illness, this involves strong collaboration within the Department of Communities and Justice, and with the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network and NSW Health more broadly, to ensure improved case management and care planning before release. It also means increased access to, and engagement with, mental health treatment and other supports in the community to improve outcomes.

For women who are parents, there are a number of initiatives underway, including placing child protection workers into women’s prisons to help address the complex child/parenting issues which can impact on reintegration, research into how to better support women who are parents and implementing female strengthening programs as well as increasing access to programs and services to reduce reoffending. 

We are working to build a supportive prison environment that promotes rehabilitation and successful reintegration. This includes increasing constructive interactions to promote positive change and engagement with people in custody. The message for staff is ‘every contact counts’ and there are many initiatives underway, such as the Five Minute Intervention which is currently being rolled out across all NSW prisons. 

Developed in the UK, the Five Minute Intervention is a proven approach that helps staff use every interaction they have with people in custody in a positive and motivational way to support rehabilitation.  

This initiative aims to improve productivity during the considerable amount of time people spend in cells. This also includes improving access to services and providing improved connection to family and social supports, all of which are proven to provide significant benefits. Digital technology, including providing tablets with opportunities to practice skills used in programs, enables this time to be more productive.  The initiatives will also allow more people in custody to participate in programs remotely using digital technology and maintain contact with family.  

Reducing recidivism

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