Ombudsman Deborah Glass is conducting an investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria.
In a discussion paper, she said her preliminary work indicated that reforms making it more difficult to get parole meant prisoners re-entered the community “without the monitoring and reporting requirements that parole would impose”.
The reforms followed a review of the Victorian parole system in 2013, conducted in the wake of more than a dozen murders by parolees, including the 2012 rape and murder of Brunswick woman Jill Meagher.
The review found the interests of prisoners were placed above community safety.
In the discussion paper, Ms Glass wrote that: “An increasing number of prisoners are leaving [prison] without it [parole] at the end of their full sentences.”
She added: “Nor will they necessarily have to attend programs designed to reduce offending behaviour, one of the requirements for parole.”
The increase in the prison population was putting further strain on the system.
The prison population has grown from 4,350 in June 2009 to 6,140 this month and is projected to increase to 7,169 by June 2015.
“It is not surprising when a prison system is required to expand to the degree we are seeing in Victoria today, that that the aspirations of the system as reflected in guidelines and procedures are not always met,” Ms Glass said.
“The strains on the prison system are not simply a problem for the prisoner authorities and they do not affect only the prison population or those connected to it. They are a problem for the state and everyone in it.”
Recidivism rates growing; 51pc in for second term
As the prison population grew, so too did the rate of recidivism, Ms Glass found.
She said there had been a “significant increase” in the number of inmates who were in prison for a second time.
“In 2013, 51 per cent of all Victorian prisoners had previously served a prison sentence as an adult,” Ms Glass said.
“This compares to 48 per cent in 2010.”
Ms Glass said of particular concern was the inconsistent delivery of programs to indigenous and women offenders.
“It is important that the heightened needs of these prisoners are recognised,” she said.
“A common observation is that when systems come under stress, these groups seem to bear a disproportionate amount of the burden.”
With the growth in the size of the prison population has come an equivalent increase in the number of complaints, which were up 33 per cent on the previous financial year.