News & Events

ACSO Comment: How the housing crisis is affecting people leaving prison

February 8, 2024

Last week, Guardian Australia reported on how the housing crisis is affecting the rising numbers of people who are incarcerated on remand, and those who cannot find stable housing after exiting prison.

ACSO supports the reporting and statements in this story, particularly the comments made by ANU Professor of Criminology Lorana Bartels:

Bartels… said Australia is incarcerating more people on remand as a result of the housing crisis, as those without secure accommodation are less likely to be granted, or apply for, bail.

“It’s a truism that there will always be a bed for you in prison, even if there isn’t one anywhere else,” she said.

“We know, of course, that Indigenous people are more likely to not have stable housing, have a prior record, and not have employment. So you’re seeing a constellation of factors which will combine to make it harder for them to meet those requirements for bail.”

Bartels said 61% of people in prison have previously been incarcerated, which is an indication the system isn’t “working well”.

ACSO’s CEO Vaughan Winther says there needs to be greater provision of social housing and more support for people exiting prison, particularly those with complex support needs.

“In 2020, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) data indicated that of the 41,060 people exiting the justice system, more than 54% were to become homeless and 44% had only emergency or short-term accommodation options when they left prison.

“This is a significant number – simply far too many people are either struggling with their tenancies or becoming homeless once they leave prison.

“With an all-time average low of rental vacancies of less than 1% across Australia, coupled with the stigma and discrimination faced by people who have been incarcerated, options for stable accommodation is steadily becoming more and more difficult for people in, or exiting the justice system.

“At ACSO, we believe prisons should be a last resort, and solutions like stable housing, access to healthcare, and having strong community support systems are essential for breaking the cycle, and helping people create better lives for themselves after prison.”