My matter, for the Minister for Corrections, relates to the shocking impact of illicit drug use.
Naturally, there is always intense debate (including in this place) around how best to tackle such usage, and people bring a variety of perspectives to that question.
However, we surely all agree that these substances (whether ice, or any of a number of other destructive drugs) are being used in record numbers in Victoria, and are inflicting a staggering degree of carnage on users, their families and communities.
Indeed, for a timely picture of the scale of that use, we need look no further than last week’s release of the latest in the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s excellent annual wastewater series.
While I do so cautiously, I especially want to express my continued despair tonight about drug-related court cases that regularly highlight disconnects between our justice and health systems. These disconnects are failing all of us in numerous ways, including in a lack of timely resourcing.
In late February, this was again underscored when an offender was bailed in Shepparton, then absconded (and I think is still on the loose) because his rehabilitation bed wasn’t ready. He was still bailed in these circumstances even despite the opposition of the police prosecutor to the release, including specifically because of his concerns about that very flight risk.
If beds are not available in such circumstances, then isn’t it just common sense that these inmates must remain detained?
Rehabilitation programs are already available in correctional facilities in any case and, surely, should be mandated there as well as during remand. This would likely not only achieve better accountability for drug-fuelled crimes, but also provide a genuine opportunity for these offenders to detox and increase their chances of resetting their lives on paths that do not again encompass crime or further drug addiction.
I should add that immediate access to rehab (which generally considerably helps prevent recidivism in these cases) is further complicated by the fact that Victoria (and certainly my electorate of Northern Victoria) has a critical shortage of these services. Given that illicit drugs are so potent to addicts that they remain near-impossible for them to resist without comprehensive treatment, this immediate access is critically important.
Accordingly, the action I seek is that the Minister consider modifying current practice so that, if an offender is bailed to a drug rehabilitation program, they must always continue to be detained until they are able to be released directly to the facility running the program.