Women out of jail and into homelessness
Journalist: Jamal Ben Haddou
CENTRAL Australian women are being released from prison into homelessness as they face limited
housing options according to the Territory’s peak body for housing and homelessness.
The issue was raised in Darwin as 200 experts on Australia’s prison system gathered to discuss the
“revolving door of reoffending”.
Regional Co-ordinator of NT Shelter Hannah Purdy said women released from jail in Alice Springs
can often become homeless, hugely reducing their chances of getting their lives back on track.
“There’s about 40 to 50 women in the Alice Springs correctional centre at any given time. When
they leave there is no dedicated accommodation or support facilities for them,” she said.
“They often rely on family, friends and other support. If they don’t have an income and because
there’s no dedicated accommodation they often go back into the regular housing sector which is
pretty tight in Alice Springs.”
Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the Territory has the highest rate
of homelessness in Australia.
Ms Purdy said she is familiar with extreme overcrowding in Alice Springs.
“Many women live in severe situations where there are 20-30 people living in a home with one
bathroom,” she said.
Ms Purdy said homelessness gives few chances of rehabilitation for women released from prison to
reintegrate back into society.
“Access to safe affordable housing is really critical to other things like family, work, stability,
children, mental and physical health among other things,” she said.
“Women leaving prison are often mothers and Aboriginal. There’s a lot of stigma attached with
being in prison and being homeless so it can be really difficult for women to get their foot in the
door for housing.”
A Deakin University professor convening for the gathering in Darwin said jails were increasingly
used as places to warehouse people facing poverty and homelessness.
Professor Graffam Joe Graffam said “the vast majority” of Australia’s prisoners were not dangerous
but serving sentences of less than year for crimes associated with poverty and mental illness.
“People are often released to homelessness and joblessness, there are no offender specific
community services to support them …” he said.
Hannah’s presentation to the Reintegration Puzzle Conference is available here.