Ravenhall Prison: Rehabilitating and Reintegrating Prisoners

Tabled: 19 March 2020

2 Rehabilitation and reintegration at Ravenhall

Ravenhall has a focus on trialling new approaches to reduce reoffending. These approaches include GEO’s Continuum of Care model and the Bridge Centre.

In response to growing prisoner numbers across the state, CV made changes to Ravenhall’s prisoner composition and increased its number of prisoner places. CV is progressing a contract variation to further increase Ravenhall’s prisoner places. At 31 December 2019, this has not been finalised. We outline CV’s changes to Ravenhall’s prisoner numbers and composition in Figure 2A.

In this Part, we assess the key contractual changes that CV made to Ravenhall. We also consider if Ravenhall’s service delivery model is appropriate for its current prisoner population.

2.1 Conclusion

In its first two years of operation, Ravenhall underwent significant changes to accommodate the state’s need to quickly accommodate the growing number of prisoners across the state. These changes have limited GEO’s ability to trial new approaches to reduce reoffending.

Most of Ravenhall’s prisoners are either short-stay, who typically serve sentences of three months or less, or remand. However, Ravenhall’s criminogenic programs and interventions, which aim to reduce reoffending, are designed to be delivered over longer periods to have more impact. Consequently, most of Ravenhall’s prisoners are unable to participate and benefit from these programs and interventions.

For this reason, GEO’s original model is unlikely to be as effective at reducing reoffending for its current prisoner population. This is a significant missed opportunity for the state to learn about and improve prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration.

2.2 Contract changes

CV made changes to Ravenhall’s contract to help ease system-wide capacity issues. We outline the three key contract changes that have affected Ravenhall’s rehabilitation and reintegration services in Figure 2A.

Figure 2A
Key Ravenhall events

 

Ravenhall-timeline-snipped.PNG

Source: VAGO, based on CV and GEO documentation.

These three significant changes occurred during Ravenhall’s first two years of operation—a period in which it was still settling and developing its culture.

The impact of contract changes

In the contract negotiation documents, CV and GEO agreed in principle to preserve Ravenhall’s focus on rehabilitation and reintegration. CV requested the contract changes under its belief that:

  • Ravenhall would retain its focus on rehabilitation services and deliver its Continuum of Care model to all prisoners, regardless of their sentence status
  • remand prisoners have similar characteristics to sentenced prisoners and therefore, the prison’s seven key areas of focus would remain.

Despite CV’s intention, the contract changes have limited Ravenhall’s ability to reduce recidivism.

Contract changes 7 and 8—introduction of remand prisoners and increased prisoner places

In response to contract change 7, GEO developed a clinical service delivery model for remand prisoners and was able to offer remand prisoners many of its existing lifestyle programs and support services.

As remand prisoners have not been convicted of a crime, they cannot undertake programs designed to treat offending behaviour or reduce recidivism. In response to the contract change, GEO developed new programs with content and duration more suited to remand prisoners, who typically spend shorter periods in custody.

We note that contract changes 7 and 8 resulted in the following changes to Ravenhall’s rehabilitation and reintegration services:

  • costs were reallocated
  • clinician-to-prisoner ratios were reduced
  • clinical services reached capacity
  • prisoners’ out-of-cell hours were reduced
  • intensive reintegration and post-release services for remand prisoners were required.
Reallocation of costs

The state requested the contract change to be cost neutral, and for GEO to implement changes by reallocating its service costs. The state acknowledged that GEO would likely divert costs from Ravenhall’s rehabilitation and reintegration services.

GEO estimates that approximately 10 per cent of Ravenhall’s rehabilitation and reintegration costs (consisting of staff and operating costs) were reallocated to custodial operations and administration.

Reduced clinician-to-prisoner ratio

Since the contract changes were introduced, Ravenhall’s clinician to prisoner ratio has reduced across the five communities it houses prisoners in. To address this, GEO recruited four remand reintegration officers. The reintegration officers are non-clinical staff who support the work of clinicians by assessing prisoners’ reintegration needs and making referrals.

Figure 2B shows the changes to Ravenhall’s clinician-prisoner ratios.

Figure 2B
Changes to Ravenhall’s funded clinician-to-prisoner ratios

Community

Original ratio for 1 000 sentenced prisoners

Ratio for 1 300 sentenced and remand prisoners

Community 1: Mainstream sentenced

1:17

1:25

Community 2: Youth and Aboriginal and 
Torres Strait Islander

1:17

1:25

Community 3: Remand

1:17

1:26

Community 4/5: Protection

1:23

1:29

Complex Needs Team

1:16

1:16

Note: Protection refers to prisoners who need to be separated from other prisoners for their protection.
Source: VAGO, based on information provided by GEO.

Clinical services at capacity

The clinical team in each Ravenhall community delivers assessment and treatment services in line with Ravenhall’s Sentenced and Remand Clinical Service Delivery Model. In February 2019, GEO reported that with 1 300 prisoners, Ravenhall’s assessment and treatment services were at capacity and waitlists for its programs were growing. Figure 2F outlines the number of prisoners waitlisted for offending behaviour programs (OBP) and AOD programs.

Alongside reduced clinician-to-prisoner ratios, growing waitlists increase the risk that prisoners will receive less support than they would have had under Ravenhall’s original contract.

Reduced out-of-cell hours

GEO initially planned to offer Ravenhall prisoners 12 hours out of their cells each day. However, prior to the prison opening, CV approved GEO to reduce this to 11.50 hours to manage the introduction of remand prisoners. Since then, CV has approved a further reduction to 11.15 hours.

Spending time out of their cells allows prisoners to participate in rehabilitation and reintegration activities. It is also important for their mental health and wellbeing.

Requirement to provide intensive post release services for remand prisoners

Remand prisoners have always had access to Ravenhall’s reintegration and post release services. However, significant issues arose around GEO’s funding and provision of intensive pre and post-release services for remandees. Initially, CV considered that funding for these intensive services would be covered by the cost neutrality requirement. Consequently, GEO and CV had conflicting views about whether KPI 15 (reintegration) applied to remand prisoners.

CV now acknowledges that these intensive services were not funded. It has since provided GEO with three years of funding to deliver them. We discuss this further in Section 2.4.

Contract change 9—further increase to prisoner numbers

CV first initiated contract change 9 in January 2019. CV paused this change in October 2019 because statewide prisoner numbers did not increase as expected. In December 2019, CV initiated a revised contract variation to increase Ravenhall’s prisoner places in increments, rather than adding a fixed number of prisoners all at once. As of 31 December 2019, the revised model has yet to be approved and Ravenhall’s capacity remains at 1 300.

Activating prisoners in increments achieves better value for money for the state. This is because CV provides private prisons with an availability payment. This payment stream is based on the number of places a prison has available for use (regardless of whether the place is being used or not). Activating prisoner places in increments, rather than all at once, means that the state will not be paying for unused prisoner places.

If Ravenhall’s number of prisoner places increases beyond 1 300, then the previously negotiated contract change 9 provisions will apply. We identified the following issues associated with the contract change 9 process, and future increase in prisoner numbers that are likely to have negative consequences for Ravenhall’s rehabilitation and reintegration outcomes:

  • double bunking
  • prison infrastructure capacity and its impact on prisoners’ ability to engage in purposeful activity
  • staffing uncertainty.

We discuss these issues below.

Double bunking

Double bunking is the practice of installing bunk beds for additional prisoners in cells designed to accommodate a single prisoner. In its modification request to GEO, the state acknowledged that single-cell occupancy is the preferred accommodation type in Victoria. However, in this circumstance CV was willing to accept alternative proposals, such as double bunking and other suitable alternatives, to quickly address the system-wide demand.

To prepare for Ravenhall’s planned increase to 1 600 places, GEO installed double bunks in cells designed for one prisoner. It installed double bunks in 212 single cells and a further 88 in the prison’s cottages and lodges.

Installing bunk beds allows the state to quickly accommodate additional prisoners, but it is not a preferable long-term solution. It is widely accepted among the corrections sector that bunks beds are associated with increased prisoner restlessness, disengagement, aggression and violence. An independent investigation into the 2015 Metropolitan Remand Centre riot identified double bunking as a contributor.

Infrastructure capacity and impact on purposeful activity

Ravenhall was only designed to hold 1 300 prisoners. The central areas of the prison (such as the industry buildings, community hub and kitchen) were designed for a maximum capacity of 1 300. If CV further increases its number of prisoner places, then Ravenhall will be pushed beyond its built capacity.

If prisoner places are increased, GEO and CV agreed in the initial contract change 9 to reduce Ravenhall’s benchmark for the number of hours prisoners engage in purposeful activity (such as employment, programs and education) by 2.5 hours per week. GEO had also planned to extend the opening hours of the learning hub and create additional but slightly shorter work shifts in the prison industries.

While these changes are yet to take place, they may result in prisoners spending less time participating in activities that develop life skills or contribute to their rehabilitation.

Staffing uncertainty

In addition to Ravenhall’s new process of activating and deactivating prisoner places in increments, the commencement, pause and current amendment to contract change 9 has created uncertainty about the prison’s staffing requirements.

In response to the initial planned increase to 1 600 prisoners, GEO recruited a significant number of additional staff across Ravenhall, many of whom are now surplus to its needs. Uncertainty about Ravenhall’s staffing requirements creates the risk that GEO will not be able to appropriately resource the prison, including its rehabilitation and reintegration team.

2.3 Ravenhall’s rehabilitation and reintegration services

GEO developed an evidence-based model to assess and treat each individual prisoner’s risk of reoffending. However, this model is best suited to sentenced prisoners who stay at Ravenhall for three months or longer.

Due to the contract changes, sentenced prisoners now make up only 48 per cent of Ravenhall’s population. Half of Ravenhall’s prisoners are remand, and most of the total cohort are short-stay. As a result, GEO’s model for reducing recidivism is not as relevant to Ravenhall’s current prisoner population and is unlikely to be as effective.

Did Ravenhall receive its expected prisoner cohorts?

Ravenhall’s prisoner cohorts include:

  • prisoners with a mental illness
  • prisoners with challenging behaviours
  • young prisoners (under 25)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners
  • prisoners serving short sentences (less than 12 months).

Ravenhall has received the expected numbers of all these cohorts, except for short-stay prisoners.

Short-stay prisoners

GEO’s data shows that Ravenhall has held a significant number of short stay prisoners. While GEO expected to hold prisoners serving sentences less than 12 months, it stated that it did not anticipate the large number of prisoners serving less than three-month sentences.

Figure 2C shows that 70 per cent of the prisoners discharged between January 2019 to December 219 spent less than 90 days at Ravenhall. This is significant because Ravenhall’s programs and interventions are designed for prisoners who serve sentences of three months or longer, which is consistent with evidence-based practices to reduce reoffending.

Figure 2C
Length of stay for sentenced and remand prisoners discharged between January–December 2019

 

Length of stay for sentenced and remand prisoners discharged between January-December 2019

Source: VAGO, based on data provided by GEO.

Within the sentenced cohort, only 40.9 per cent of discharged prisoners spent more than 90 days at Ravenhall, as shown in Figure 2D.

In line with Ravenhall’s Sentenced Clinical Service Delivery Model, sentenced prisoners who are serving less than 90 days are ineligible for criminogenic programs, which are designed to reduce the likelihood of them reoffending. GEO states that anything less than 90 days is not long enough for these programs to impact reoffending.

Of the 1 316 sentenced prisoners discharged between January 2019 and December 2019, only 18 spent more than 12 months at Ravenhall (1.3 per cent of sentenced discharges).

Figure 2D
Length of stay for sentenced prisoners discharged between January 2019–December 2019

 

Length of stay for sentenced prisoners discharged between January-December 2019

Source: VAGO, based on data provided by GEO.

GEO has previously raised concerns with CV about the number of prisoners Ravenhall receives who have sentences of less than three months. The Ravenhall contract defines a short stay as a sentence of less than 12 months. It does not define a lower limit. Defining a lower limit would not be practical for CV, as it needs flexibility to manage the system-wide demand.

Is Ravenhall’s model evidence-based?

Ravenhall’s model combines two evidence-based rehabilitation models that target factors to aid reintegration. These are the Risk Needs Responsivity (RNR) model and the Good Lives Model (GLM).

The RNR model suggests that:

  • criminal behaviour or risk can be predicted
  • treatment should be targeted to prisoners’ needs
  • application of treatment should depend on a prisoner’s responsiveness to it.

In comparison, the GLM is based on developing prisoners’ individual strengths. It encourages prisoners to develop meaningful and prosocial life goals.

By combining these two models, the Ravenhall model is designed to manage risk while developing prisoners’ individual capabilities. GEO uses these two models in its risk assessment and screening tools, which we discuss below.

Do Ravenhall’s pre-release services target its prisoners’ needs?

Assessment of prisoner risk and needs

GEO administers two risk assessment and treatment tools in addition to the ones that are used in the public system. As shown in Figure 2E, these are the:

  • Structured Dynamic Assessment Case-Management Tool (SDAC-21), which is linked to the RNR model
  • Good Lives Assessment Tool (GLAT), which is linked to the GLM.

These assessments apply to sentenced prisoners:

  • who, through other system wide assessments, are identified as having a moderate-to-high risk of reoffending
  • serving a sentence of more than six months.

Figure 2E
Risk assessment tools

Tool

What

Why

SDAC-21

Determines a prisoner’s risk factors

  • assists case managers to focus on risk
  • determines a prisoner’s access to criminogenic programs

GLAT

Maps and explores what is important to each prisoner

  • used in case management
  • assists GEO to refer prisoners to personal development, life skills programs, education and training and health services

Source: VAGO, based on GEO documents.

Based on Ravenhall’s mix of remand and sentenced prisoners and length of stay data, these two assessments are now only relevant to approximately one quarter of its prisoners.

We reviewed the files of 20 Ravenhall prisoners discharged in December 2018 and June 2019. In the 20 files, only one of six eligible prisoners had a completed SDAC-21, and none had completed the GLAT. The remaining 14 were ineligible due to their sentence status or length of stay.

Prisoners also have their reintegration needs identified (including potential referrals to programs, education and support services) as part of their reintegration assessment. We discuss this further in Section 2.4.

Programs and length of stay

In Ravenhall’s operating instruction for its AOD programs and OBPs, GEO states that prisoners serving sentences of less than three months are ineligible to participate. This is regardless of their assessed risk of reoffending. This is because clinical programs need to be delivered over an appropriate length of time to have an impact. For short-stay prisoners, the focus is instead on transitional programs or services that support reintegration.

During 2019, half of Ravenhall’s sentenced prisoners served sentences of less than three months. This, alongside the fact that half of Ravenhall’s prisoners are remand, means that most of its prisoners are not eligible for criminogenic programs designed to reduce reoffending.

This was reflected in our review of prisoner files discussed later in this section and described in detail in Appendix B.

Program scheduling

GEO schedules programs to run within each of Ravenhall’s communities.

Each community has several program rooms where prisoners undertake programs with their peers. Prisoners are referred to these programs based on their individual needs.

A prisoner can only attend a program if it runs in their community during their time in custody. Some programs need minimum enrolment numbers to commence, which can affect their running frequency. In some instances, prisoners may be placed on waitlists for months before the program runs. As discussed earlier, most of Ravenhall’s prisoners spend a short time in custody. Consequently, the programs they are referred to may not be available during their time in custody.

Program waitlists

GEO reports monthly to CV on its OBP and AOD programs. In its reports, some of the AOD programs had high numbers of waitlisted prisoners. Figure 2F shows the average number of daily referrals and the average number of days prisoners are waitlisted for these programs.

Figure 2F
Average daily referrals and average number of days on waitlists for July–December 2019

Program

July

August

September

 

Referrals

Waitlist

Referrals

Waitlist

Referrals

Waitlist

Know the Score

46

183

195

176

62

207

Skating on Ice

26

150

198

162

43

183

Cannabis and Me

32

86

25

108

28

91

Ice and Me 

77

43

47

48

66

55

Alcohol and Me

16

52

27

44

33

58

Wised Up

9

267

10

105

15

131

CBISA

8

50

2

81

5

107

 

Program

October

November

December

 

Referrals

Waitlist

Referrals

Waitlist

Referrals

Waitlist

Know the Score

45

151

56

177

25

181

Skating on Ice

49

200

42

184

15

222

Cannabis and Me

31

100

44

112

61

131

Ice and Me 

65

38

73

59

83

78

Alcohol and Me

58

48

41

45

29

85

Wised Up

0

112

21

115

4

132

CBISA

0

80

4

106

2

73

Note: Referrals is the number of prisoners assessed and subsequently referred to a program.
Note: CBISA refers to the Cognitive Behavioural Interventions for Substance Abuse program.
Source: VAGO, based on GEO reporting to CV.

On average, prisoners experienced long wait times for the Know the Score, Skating on Ice, Cannabis and Me and Wised Up programs during this period. As contractually required, GEO creates its program schedule a year in advance. While GEO delivered its 2019 schedule, increased demand resulted in the wait times shown in Figure 2F. To address this, GEO has included additional AOD programs in the 2020 program schedule it submitted to CV.

Program completion rates

Gateway is GEO’s IT prison operating system. Both prisoners and staff have access to Gateway. GEO uses Gateway for prisoner movement, prisoner scheduling and case management.

Prisoners access their daily schedule through GEO’s Gateway system. Every prisoner has access to Gateway through a secure computer built into their cell. While a prisoner may be scheduled for multiple activities at the same time, Gateway has an in-built prioritisation hierarchy. This means that prisoners only see the highest priority activity that they are scheduled for.

High priority activities include health appointments and activities that directly contribute to reducing reoffending (such as OBPs, education and vocation training or reintegration services), or activities that impact a prisoner’s eligibility for parole. Lower priority activities are those that do not count under SDO 14 (purposeful activity) or do not directly contribute to reducing recidivism (such as recreation).

In June 2019, GEO developed a comprehensive Gateway report to outline program scheduling, enrolments and completions. GEO provided us with a copy of this report covering the period from June 2019 to December 2019. We examined the number of prisoners who completed the programs they were enrolled in during this period.

Figure 2G shows that OBP and AOD programs, which are monitored by CV through SDO 18, have high completion rates. In contrast, lifestyle programs and programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, which are not attached to SDOs, have lower completion rates. The lower completion rates for remand programs may have been influenced by the fact that remandees typically have a shorter length of stay than sentenced prisoners.

Figure 2G
Program completions rates for June–December 2019

Program category

Programs scheduled

Prisoners enrolled

Prisoners attended

Valid exceptions

Category completion rates

OBPs

751

5 240

4 544

141

89.4%

OBP individual interventions

2 534

2 620

1 808

95

72.6%

AOD programs

538

4 006

3 025

235

81.4%

Aboriginal programs

57

737

337

37

50.7%

Personal development and life skills programs

763

5 739

3 664

236

68.0%

Remand programs

264

2 746

1 781

238

73.5%

Source:  VAGO, based on GEO’s Continuum of Care report.

SDO oversight

SDO 18 measures:

  • how many scheduled OBP and AOD programs prisons deliver (the benchmark is 100 per cent)
  • how many prisoners enrolled in OBP and AOD programs complete them (benchmark is 85 per cent).

Ravenhall has passed SDO 18 in all quarters since it opened.

File review

We found that the Ravenhall model is best suited to mid to long-term sentenced prisoners. Their longer length of stay gives them the time to complete criminogenic programs that address their risk of reoffending.

We completed a file review of 20 Ravenhall prisoners by selecting 20 sentenced prisoners discharged in December 2018 or June 2019. This represents approximately 8 per cent of the 243 sentenced prisoners who were discharged from Ravenhall in those two months. We assessed if the 20 selected prisoners had completed programs and/or education relevant to their assessed needs.

To do this, we considered the results of these prisoners’ risk assessments and matched them to the programs and/or education they completed or were referred to. When assessing completed programs and education rates, we did not include assessments, appointments or orientation sessions.

Based on the files we reviewed, we found that:

  • Short-stay prisoners (serving less than three months) did not engage in criminogenic programs to address offending behaviour. This is because, as mentioned earlier, short-stay prisoners are ineligible for Ravenhall’s criminogenic programs. We found that these prisoners did participate in other rehabilitation, reintegration and transitional services.
  • Prisoners serving sentences between three to five months were more likely to complete lifestyle and personal development programs.
  • Longer-stay prisoners were more likely to complete clinical programs that addressed offending behaviour and AOD programs.
  • Mid and longer-stay prisoners were more likely to complete programs and education aligned with the risk areas identified during their reception.

Further details about our file review can be found in Appendix B.

Program evaluation

Each Ravenhall program has a program logic that outlines short and medium term outcomes. GEO measures these outcomes through a combination of:

  • pre and post-program psychometric assessments or surveys to measure changes in participants’ behaviours, attitudes and thoughts
  • participant feedback forms
  • clinician feedback.

To date, Ravenhall has used this feedback to complete four evaluations for the following programs:

  • Know the Score (AOD)
  • Skating on Ice (AOD)
  • Prison-related Harm Reduction (orientation)
  • Release-related Harm Reduction (release preparation).

Ravenhall’s evaluations show that its harm reduction programs are largely meeting their objectives. Participants have reported an increased awareness of available support avenues and of the harms associated with substance use. For the AOD programs, Ravenhall reported:

  • improved scores for self-esteem and decision-making and for reduced depression, anxiety and hostility
  • improved awareness of the effects of substance use, and the ability to identify triggers and manage triggers and cravings
  • improved confidence to abstain from using drugs and alcohol
  • small increases in motivation to change, however, these were not statistically significant (potentially due to a small sample size).

GEO has identified strategies to reduce prisoners’ risk of substance harm after their release as an area of improvement for its release-related harm reduction program.

To date, GEO has only evaluated Ravenhall’s AOD programs. Sample size permitting, it would be useful for GEO to consider evaluating its other types of programs, including its criminogenic, treatment readiness or complementary programs.

Ravenhall does not evaluate the lifestyle programs that its Alliance Partners deliver, or any of CV’s OBPs.

2.4 Post-release services

Ravenhall’s post-release model has some unique features. In particular, the Bridge Centre, where prisoners can access the same GEO staff they engaged with in prison after they are released.

Ravenhall’s post-release model was designed to address its sentenced prisoners’ needs. Due to the contract changes, GEO was not initially funded to offer intensive pre and post-release case management services to its remand and short-stay prisoners. CV approved GEO’s proposal to fund these services in December 2019.

GEO uses several assessments to identify its prisoners’ post-release risks and needs. Our file review of 20 prisoners showed that GEO completed eight reintegration assessments outside of the required time frames and, in some instances, its reintegration plans were vague. Application consistency and complete records are necessary if, in future, CV or GEO undertake a causal evaluation.

Are post-release services targeted to prisoners’ needs?

Are prisoners’ needs assessed prior to their release?

GEO’s formal points for assessing Ravenhall prisoners’ post-release needs include the Reception Transition Triage (RTT), its reintegration assessment and the IRP.

Reception Transition Triage

The RTT is a common assessment tool used across the public and private prison system. It identifies the immediate transitional needs of sentenced and remand prisoners. Our file review found that all 20 prisoners had completed an RTT. Of these, 19 were completed on the day of, or day following, their reception at Ravenhall. The remaining prisoner’s RTT commenced on the day of their reception and was completed four days later.

The Ravenhall RTT has an additional section to the version used in public prisons. This section determines if prisoners have high reintegration needs relating to housing, social support, employment, education, AOD and/or disability. Based on the assessment, GEO’s Gateway system automatically refers prisoners to the relevant Alliance Partner for support.

Reintegration assessment

The reintegration assessment is designed to identify a prisoner’s reintegration needs and refer them to the appropriate services and programs. GEO reintegration officers administer the assessment for remand prisoners within 14 days of their reception, and within four weeks for sentenced prisoners.

This assessment collects the same type of information as CV’s reintegration assessment. However, it has additional questions and triggers automatic referrals to Ravenhall-specific programs and services. In our file review we found that:

  • 17 prisoners had a reintegration assessment completed.
  • Two prisoners had no record of the assessment in Gateway—one had refused to participate and the other was discharged before it was completed.
  • One prisoner was assessed by his clinician as unable to participate due to a mental health condition and was therefore exempt.

A prisoner’s participation in this assessment depends on their consent and willingness to engage with reintegration services. If the reintegration assessment is completed late into a prisoner’s stay, then they may not be referred to the appropriate programs or services in time. Alternatively, they might not have enough time to complete the programs and services when they are eventually referred.

Of the 17 prisoners that had a completed reintegration assessment, eight did not have them completed within GEO’s set time frame. For these eight, the time for completion ranged between 4.5 to 66 weeks after their reception. Two of the prisoners who had reintegration assessments completed outside of the required time frame (including the prisoner whose plan took 66 weeks to complete) had initially refused to participate, but later consented due to continued engagement by GEO staff.

Individual Reintegration Plan

An IRP is used to identify a prisoner’s post-release goals, refer them to Alliance Partners’ reintegration services and determine if they are suitable to be included in KPI 15. The prisoner develops their IRP with the support of a GEO reintegration officer.

CV monitors GEO to ensure that all eligible prisoners have an IRP and that the required referrals to Alliance Partner services are made through KPI 24 (reintegration assessment and referral). Ravenhall has achieved 100 per cent for this KPI since opening, and we identified no issues with CV’s validation of KPI 24 results.

In our file review, the 15 prisoners who required an IRP had one. Of the remaining five, four were valid exceptions because they were remand prisoners discharged from court, and one was exempt for mental health reasons.

We also considered the quality of the IRPs. Of the 15 that were completed, we assessed 10 as sufficiently individualised and targeted to the risks and needs of the prisoner. The remaining five did have some relevant information for the prisoner but were overall vague and generic.

While CV does not have a formal quality assurance process for IRPs, GEO states that it has recently implemented one. This includes observing IRP development sessions between a prisoner and their case manager, and a formal review of all IRPs by a senior member of Ravenhall’s Transition and Reintegration team.

Are post-release services targeted to the needs of Ravenhall’s expected cohorts?

Ravenhall’s post-release services are designed around five key reintegration domains (housing, education, employment, mental health and AOD) and the individual needs of its prisoners. GEO refers prisoners to these services based on the risk assessments outlined above.

Post-release services for remand and short-stay prisoners

Due to contract change 7, half of Ravenhall’s prisoner population did not have access to intensive reintegration and post-release services.

GEO and CV proceeded with contract change 7 on the understanding that the Continuum of Care model would be provided to all prisoners, regardless of their legal status. They also agreed that all changes would be cost neutral to the state. GEO and CV later agreed that funding intensive remand and shortstay reintegration services was beyond the scope of the contract changes.

Until December 2019, Ravenhall was the only prison in Victoria that did not provide intensive pre and post-release case management services to remand prisoners. This is because other prisons receive funding for the ‘Restart’ program, which is used in the public system. This created a gap where Ravenhall prisoners were at a comparative disadvantage.

Despite this, Ravenhall’s remand prisoners have always had the same ability to access the Bridge Centre as sentenced prisoners.

In February 2019, the state formally requested GEO to submit a proposal for intensive post-release remand services. GEO submitted a proposal in March 2019 and, after refinement, this was approved in December 2019. The approved proposal is for a three-year period and is comparable to the public system. It includes the provision of intensive pre and post-release services to 225 remand and short-stay prisoners each year.

Once the service model has been finalised, CV and GEO have committed to develop new KPIs to measure Ravenhall’s remand reintegration services. Additional KPIs are appropriate if remand prisoners are excluded from KPIs 15 and 24. CV is considering if payments for a new remand prisoner KPI should be additional to the current pool of KPI payments or incorporated within the existing pool.

Funded Individual Support Packages

Ravenhall offers a fixed number of Funded Individual Support Packages (FISP) to support offenders who present with high reintegration needs to transition back into the community. Two of the FISPs are targeted towards specific cohorts—youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Figure 2H
FISPs

Type of FISP

Alliance Partner

Description

Housing

MCM

Provides either three-or six month’s rental subsidy for suitable prisoners so they can focus on employment.

Bridge Employment

YMCA

Provides intensive case management and employment support for young people (25 years and under).

Aboriginal post release coordination linkages

A suitable Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Provides culturally appropriate post release support.

Source: VAGO, based on GEO’s operating instruction.

Between January 2018 and October 2019, GEO awarded 193 FISPs. Of these, 149 were for housing and 44 were for Bridge Employment. No FISPs have been awarded in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stream due to challenges in finding suitable service providers. Instead, GEO reported that FISP funding has been used to support the delivery of post-release services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men through alternate means.

Unique to Ravenhall, FISPs are designed for sentenced prisoners who spend a sufficient amount of time at the prison and demonstrate a willingness to engage with its services. GEO has stated that it requires approximately three months to assess a prisoner’s suitability for a FISP and undertake pre-release case management and planning.

GEO’s length of stay data for prisoners discharged between January 2019 to December 2019 shows that only 20 per cent of discharged prisoners were sentenced and served for three months or longer. Based on length of stay alone, only a small number of prisoners could have benefited from a FISP.

GEO has stated that it reallocated some of its FISP funding to custodial services due to contract change 7.

The Bridge Centre

The Bridge Centre is an administrative hub, program delivery venue and base where Ravenhall Alliance Partners and GEO reintegration staff provide post release services to former prisoners.

Any Ravenhall prisoner (remand or sentenced) can access services at the Bridge Centre for two years after their release. The centre gives former prisoners access to the staff and clinicians they engaged with at Ravenhall. Figure 2I shows that use of the Bridge Centre is increasing over time, as expected for a new prison and facility.

Figure 2I
Instances of care at the Bridge Centre, 2019

 

Instances of care at the Bridge Centre, 2019

Note: Instances of care include appointments, phone support and unscheduled client drop-ins.
Source: VAGO, based on GEO data.

Figure 2J shows the breakdown of services that former prisoners access at the Bridge Centre.

Figure 2J
Primary post-release needs delivered at the Bridge Centre between January 2019–August 2019

 

Primary post-release needs delivered at the Bridge Centre between January-August 2019

Source: VAGO, based on GEO data.

2.5 Comparison to the public system

We compared GEO’s Continuum of Care model to the public model, which is known as Corrections Victoria Reintegration Pathway (CVRP). Overall, we found that the Ravenhall and CVRP models are aligned and use the same underlying principles. This is appropriate because it ensures that all of Victoria’s prisons are integrated and operate as one system.

The differences between the Ravenhall and the CVRP models are most evident in Ravenhall’s post-release services. While both models have the same purpose—to offer reintegration services to offenders with complex needs, Ravenhall’s post-release model has many unique features:

  • Continuity of care—post release, former prisoners have access to the same clinicians and staff they engaged with during their custody at Ravenhall. Where a staff member is not physically present at the Bridge Centre, meetings can be arranged through the Bridge Centre’s teleconference facilities.
  • FISPs—while the public system has similar support services, they are set up differently to FISPs. FISPs compliment the current public offering by providing funded packages to offenders who are motivated and willing to engage.
  • Family involvement—GEO offers individual family support as well as family information nights at the Bridge Centre. Anecdotally, GEO staff have reported that this increases former prisoners’ engagement with post release services.

Compared to the public system, two weaknesses of Ravenhall’s model are the Bridge Centre’s fixed location and that it offers less assertive outreach.

1. The Bridge Centre’s fixed location

CV requested that the Bridge Centre be in a central Melbourne location. As the Bridge Centre is in a fixed location, this may not be convenient or accessible for all former prisoners. Comparatively, the public post-release service network, which has more clients, is located across metropolitan and regional Victoria.

To address the distance barrier, the Bridge Centre can provide post-release support via phone. GEO reported that it has occasionally used regional CV offices to facilitate video or teleconferences with regionally based former prisoners. GEO’s Alliance Partner MCM provides some assertive outreach services throughout Victoria.

In the public system, former prisoners are placed with a service provider in their geographic region.

2. Less assertive outreach

Assertive outreach is where case managers proactively and persistently attempt to engage offenders who have high reintegration needs and are not engaging or are having difficulty engaging with services.

Ravenhall’s Alliance Partner MCM provides assertive outreach to some former prisoners through its Emerge Program. This program provides former prisoners with funding for housing, education and employment for up to six months after their release. CV’s equivalent program offers support for up to 12 months.

Other forms of case management at Ravenhall do not include assertive outreach.

Back to Top