Why using police as Corrections Officers is a bad idea.

Albury may be about to lose it’s 24 hour Corrective Services officers with a restructuring by the NSW Department of Corrective Services threatening to see the supervision of short term prisoners -a role currently undertaken by Corrective Services Officers- transferred to police. 

I don’t think there are many people who would dispute that policing is a demanding role which requires specialist training, but so is that of managing persons in custody.

At the risk of stating the patently obvious, they are quite distinct roles and ones which place differing demands on the persons undertaking them.

The debate surrounding police numbers in Albury is nothing new, I think most people in the community are aware that police numbers for the region on both sides of the border are already below what is needed.

The debate around alcohol-fuelled violence on Dean Street has highlighted the shortage of police numbers on our streets, and the consequences in terms of anti-social  behaviour, assaults and vandalism which have come about as a result of this.

Losing police to provide a supervisory role to persons in custody will not only see a reduction in policing outcomes due to already stretched police personnel being cut back, but also a deterioration of outcomes for people in custody.

Being incarcerated is a dangerous proposition for anyone at the best of times, without the skill, expertise and judgement of experienced and specially trained Corrections Officers, it becomes even more so.

I don’t think it’s any great secret that the number of deaths in custody which occurs where people in custody are supervised by police (remote communities for example) far exceeds the rate of overall deaths in custody for people supervised by Corrections Officers.

This isn’t so much a negative reflection on police as it is an endorsement of the skills of Corrections Officers. 

There is another consideration, currently, the role of Corrections Officers is one of a third party. If a person commits a crime, they are arrested by police, interviewed by police and charged, also by police.

Almost invariably, this results in a high level of animosity on the part of the individual towards police in general. People who are often in a very unstable state of mind and often with a predisposition for violence.

The role of Corrections Officers in these instances is as an important one of intermediary.

In the initial stages of a person’s incarceration, Corrections Officers are more likely to be able to gain a person’s co-operation (and be less likely to be met with violent resistance) purely by virtue of the fact that they are not police.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that if police are taken off the streets to guard holding cells we will see increased violence in the community, poorer police response times, poorer resolution rates for crime in the community, higher rates of mortality and morbidity for persons in custody and an increased incidence of police being assaulted.

It’s a lose lose for everyone, but at least the Department of Corrections saves a couple of bucks.

Too bad about the costs incurred to the wider community, police and people in custody both financial and in terms of human misery.

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About alburywodongaonline

Hi I'm Jack Stone (a pseudonym), I'm a long-time Albury resident and I think it's a great place to live and work. I have a strong interest in local events and media and I started this site because I think a different perspective is often needed when reporting local news. I take a keen interest in local politics, as well as what's going on at the state and federal level, I'm also a supporter of social justice issues, the envirionment and the need for people to have a say in the events that effect their lives. I'm a fan of the Border Bandits and I'd love to see both teams take the flag this year, and next year, and maybe the one after that too.
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2 Responses to Why using police as Corrections Officers is a bad idea.

  1. Greg Naylor says:

    There is no doubt that a few persistent anti social offenders would become whipping boys for some police officers.
    They could also take the courts out of the equation, save a few more dollars and really become a police state.

  2. Greg, I didn’t mention the increased likelyhood of police brutality not because I don’t think it’s an issue, I agree, there may well be an increase in the number of people in custody brutalised, but because it’s very difficult to source a reliable statistic to back up that assertion.

    It’s naive to think that crooked Corrections Officers never dish out a bit of “rough justice” (ie common assault to everyone else) but I think overall, there is a culture of self vigilance among Corrections Officers.

    Most of them realise that singling out inmates for harassment leaves all of them vulnerable to reprisals, by stepping outside their prescribed role, they are effectively enndangering their colleagues, it’s not something most COs would endorse or accept I don’t think.

    The police on the other hand I think tend to have a bit more -dare I say- gung ho attitude towards dealing with violent and nuisance offenders.
    I think part of this has arisen as a result of their “front line” role in law enforcement, if things get too hairy for the COs, they call in the cops.

    It’s a disturbing development though, with the legislative disposal of civil liberties during APEC and WYD as a matter of convenience and now this, NSW is looking more and more like Stalinist Russia by the day.

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