Monday, November 10, 2014

Proposed Redfern public housing criminal record ban won't work

The Daily Telegraph reports today that police have proposed to the NSW State Government that applicants for social housing should be banned from being allocated tenancies in Redfern and Waterloo if they've been previously convicted of drug offences.

Redfern Local Area Command Superintendent Luke Freudenstein is quoted:

'I know everyone's got to have a place to live... but they're going back into an environment where they fall back into bad habits and it's not doing justice for their rehabilitation.'

For that very reason, we think the proposal should be rejected, because it won't work.

As the Superintendent says, everyone's got to have a place to live. If you make a person ineligible for a sizeable part of the social housing system in Sydney, they will have wait longer for another offer of social housing... and while they wait, they'll still got to live somewhere. Most likely, they'll be transient, moving between family, friends and associates. There's every prospect that they'll be back in same environment, at risk of the same 'bad habits', but they'll be there as a transient homeless person.

Research by Eileen Baldry and her colleagues at UNSW shows that for people leaving prison, having only transient accommodation is one of the strongest risk factors for their being imprisoned again. They conclude:

Chaotic living arrangements made doing anything about drug rehabilitation, employment or social connections virtually impossible for the study participants [ie ex-prisoners]. A majority of these transient participants was re-incarcerated by nine months post-release.

To do justice for rehabilitation of ex-drug offenders, the State Government should focus on providing secure housing and helpful support, not denying both.  

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