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Reducing Recidivism Through the Expansion of Corrective Services

Info: 3378 words (14 pages) Example Research Project
Published: 6th Jan 2022

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Tagged: Criminology


The number of prisoners in adult corrective services is increasing year on year with a four percent rise since 2017 (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018). Recidivism remains in excess of those presently incarcerated and the Australian Government is reporting an increase in the operational costs the Criminal Justice System, now at $15.3 billion (Morgan 2018: 88). Researchers at the Australian Institute of Criminology provide further insight into the cost of prisoners, estimating an average annual cost of $61,179 per prisoner including workplace disruption as a result of the incarceration of  the offending individual (Morgan 2018: 88).

In 2018, quantitative analysis conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that 51.5% (7,074) prisoners presently incarcerated in NSW, were re-offenders (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018). Further information released by NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research noted in their re-offending ​statistics that 40.7% (4,253) of sentenced prisoners released from custody in 2017 had reoffended within 12 months of their discharge date (NSW Government 2019). There are limitations to statistical analysis including correlation versus causation and further research is required to reduce differences in analysis between the two sets of data but the underlying analysis shows a large amount of prisoners released are likely to reoffend and a large percentage within 12 months of release.

NSW Government offers a range of Government funded initiatives and approaches to recidivism that demonstrate a willingness to improve reintegration outcomes for prisoners within NSW, by identifying an offender’s needs upon  entry to prison and immediately planning for their exit (Berg & Huebner 2010: 387). Programs and services including employment are offered within the confines of incarceration facilities and seek to address an inmate’s barrier to gain nationally recognised education and qualifications whilst in prison (NSW Government 2017).

Incarceration is, however, a significant limiting factor in an individual’s ability to obtain employment following time spent in the Criminal Justice System, and to avoid re-entering the prison system (Berg & Huebner 2010: 388). This is also compounded by factors such as being under-skilled in comparison to other members of the community, lack of work experience, criminal record stigmatization and reputational challenges which further hinder an individual’s ability to obtain steady work and reduce their chances of recidivism (Berg & Huebner 2010: 390).

Researchers have studied former inmates to understand and identify the factors that influence and differentiate those who reoffend from those who do not (Lockwood, et al. 2016: 59). They have identified a strong link between an individual’s ability to obtain employment and its influence on recidivism. It has been shown that employment helps to create positive ties with the community and a sense of purpose, therefore reducing reoffending (Berg & Huebner, 2010: 388). Conversely, the most influential factor to recidivism has been identified as unemployment supporting the theory that more support is needed in this area (Lockwood, et al. 2016: 59).

Project Purple seeks to understand and address barriers to employment post release and the potential broadening of the services provided by their partner organisation, Corrective Services Industries (CSI), that could lead to reduced recidivism and a better reintegration of former inmates into the community not to mention significant savings to the public purse.


Aim: Project Purple aims to reduce recidivism rates by providing access to employment for inmates post incarceration.

Objective: Project Purple will work with Government to include the requirement for Industry to employ inmates.

Research Questions: Does employment, post incarceration, provide a sense of purpose and lead to reduced recidivism?


Project Purple’s chosen partner organisation is Corrective Services Industries (CSI). CSI is a division of the Department of Communities and Justice. It aims to deliver cost effective professional correctional services and programs to reduce re-offending and enhance community safety (NSW Government 2019).

In 1978, a Royal Commission was undertaken to report upon the general working of the Department of Corrective Services in New South Wales (Parliament of New South Wales 1978). A recommendation was made to create a permanent and official body, which oversees and implements the establishment and maintenance of the corrective services industry in NSW (Parliament of New South Wales 1978). It was as a result of this recommendation that the CSI was established (NSW Government 2019).

The CSI operates over one hundred service industry teams and commercial business units (NSW Government 2019). They are located in both metropolitan and regional areas (NSW Government 2019). The aims of the CSI are to provide skills and experience to inmates during their imprisonment to allow for greater employability options upon release (NSW Government 2019). Through upskilling of inmates, they nurture meaningful work purpose and encourage positive reintegration into the community (NSW Government 2019). 

CSI partners and contracts with private and government industry to provide various services such as printing, food, assembly and manufacturing (NSW Government 2019). An example of the services provided is the furniture refurbishment initiative where damaged and worn furniture is refurbished by the inmates (NSW Government 2019). Another example is the construction and installation of modular buildings, including the media village for the Sydney Olympics. This allowed inmates to receive firsthand experience liaising with professionals such as engineers and architects as well as the operation of machinery (NSW Government 2019). The work experience and skills gained through this program further assists securing employment post prison.

CSI is a cost effective program, allowing the project to be ongoing (NSW Government 2019). The inmates receive full training in areas such as food services, building and grounds maintenance, centre hygiene and laundry operations. This develops a transferable skill set upon release in industries where skill shortages currently exist (NSW Government 2019). It also allows these programs to remain self-sufficient, injecting any profit raised by the services or sales of goods back into the operational costs of the NSW correctional services (NSW Government 2019).

Project Purple seeks to utilise inmates that have undertaken CSI offender work programs and place them in gainful employment upon release. Project Purple will leverage off the experience and connections of the CSI to gain a better understanding of the work achieved, the impact on recidivism and the ways in which Project Purple can carry the work done whilst people are incarcerated, to when they are back into the community. CSI has demonstrated hands-on experience in delivering major commercial and social outcomes whilst inmates are incarcerated and Project Purple aims to utilise lessons learnt in order to deliver materially similar outcomes, post release (NSW Government  2019).


Project Purple is a research project, which aims to understand whether the implementation of official employment services post incarceration will influence recidivism rates within NSW. It will work with CSI to integrate their current programs and make them available to individuals who have recently left the criminal justice system.

Project Purple will aim provide employment for former NSW inmates for a period of 12 months post their release date. An associated project study will interview two groups; inmates of Correctional Services NSW (CSNSW) and employers providing employment to former inmates at CSNSW.

According to recent studies, prisons were identified as failing to deter offenders from criminal behaviour and therefore have minimal impact on reducing recidivism rates (Abrams, et al. 2016: 208). Until recently a common approach to prisoners focused on their punishment as opposed to their rehabilitation (Renford 2017: 15). A re-focus on rehabilitation in a prison in the United States of America (USA), worked with the prisoners and the staff to change attitudes, and placed a stronger focus on inmate rehabilitation (Abrams, et al. 2016: 208). It is therefore important that the initial step in Project Purple is to work closely with CSI and the prison staff to create an understanding about the project and implementation. This will allow prison staff to tailor their approach to have a positive response to the prisoner’s work and attitude and encourage their rehabilitation.

Following the discussions with CSI and prison staff, Project Purple will work closely with CSI to develop a program for those individuals leaving the criminal justice system. An education project introduced in the USA aimed at providing education to prisoners using partner programs in a bid to reduce recidivism (Renford 2017: 16). The partner program utilised its experience and developed a program, with the primary aim to increase education and reduce recidivism (Renford 2017: 15). Project Purple and CSI will aim to achieve a clear program available to offenders once they leave the criminal justice system. This will include identification of the inmate’s skills and allocation of work or a project, in which they will be employed.

Following the placement of released inmates in employment, a mixed methods approach to establish the results for up to five years since implementation. Through the combination of a qualitative and quantitative approach, Project Purple will be able to assess the impact of the project’s approach. Project Purple will use semi-structured interviews with the former inmates and their employers. The interviews will take place every three months in the first year, followed by every six months the following four years. The semi- structured interview approach is to allow participants to speak freely to a number of structured questions (Ashton 2014: 29). The interviews will take approximately twenty minutes and will focus on the experiences of both the inmate and employer and whether or not their employment has impacted their reintegration back into the community.


The strength of this project is that it is working with an already established program, which aims to support current inmates to upskill and find employment during their incarceration to assist with their employability post imprisonment. This will greatly assist in the success of Project Purple.

A limitation is the inmates and employers’ willingness to be a part of this project given stigmatization and reputational challenges of imprisonment. Project Purple will also be dealing with people who, over time, may distance themselves from the project the more they become integrated in the community as they want to move past their incarceration experience. It is therefore a possibility that data will be lost due to lack of participation. It is also a possibility that participants will not be completely honest in their answers as they may fear negative feedback will jeopardise their employment or parole.


The budget for Project Purple uses the principles of the UNSW Grants Management Guide to ensure that sufficient resources are available to complete the intended project. The budget detailed includes key direct and indirect costs of the project. The UNSW GMO states that the total research budget should include all indirect and direct costs to give confidence to assessors that the project aims will be met (UNSW 2019). These costs have been detailed below.

Direct Costs (DC) are directly attributable to the project and include; personnel, equipment & consumables, travel, partner organisational direct support and subcontractors.




Total Cost


1.0 FTE x Criminologist (Full-time) $83,571/yr (Seek 2019)

5 years



1.0 FTE x Research Assistant (Full-time) $65,379/yr (Glassdoor 2019)

5 years




Travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts including accommodation and incidentals, in accordance with the Australian Tax Office Determination (TD 2018/11) for 6 days of travel average per year per FTE (Australian Taxation Office 2018)

  • 6 days average per year for domestic travel to


    • Melbourne (50% / 3 days) $304.05 per day
    • Darwin (50% / 3 days) $351.05 per day

Subtotal: $1,965.30 avg per year per FTE

Transport costs associated with Project Purple, per year includes between UNSW and Partner Organisation as well as domestic travel for 2.0 FTE.

  • Airfares (Domestic return tickets) $3,000/yr
  • Public Transport (i.e. Train, bus, taxi) $1,200/yr
  • Private Transport (i.e. ride-sharing services) $1,000/yr.

5 years



Equipment & Consumables

Project related electronics including a laptop per FTE as well as consumables including subscriptions, project specific licences and stationery.

Estimated $2,500/yr average per year per FTE.

5 years




Indirect Costs (IC) include costs supporting the research but not directly attributed to the project. These costs include facilities (i.e., UNSW shared spaces), library access, shared IT infrastructure, space and furniture and Partner Organisation costs not directly attributed to Project Purple (UNSW 2019).




Total Cost


UNSW Facilities
Library access, shared IT infrastructure and facilities

5 years


CIS (Partner Organisation) Facilities
CIS facilities access

5 years

 Total 50% of the total cost of Project Purple*


*The Allen Consulting Group (ACG) advises that indirect costs can be equal to or greater than fifty percent of a research project’s total cost (The Allen Consulting Group 2009: 6)


The expected outcome of Project Purple is to reduce recidivism rates over the duration of the program’s implementation.


  • Policy recommendations regarding the upskilling of inmates and employment support post incarceration
  • Expansion of CSI (partner organisation) to implement an official program to source employment post incarceration
  • Journals which Project Purple outcomes could be reported:
    • Current Issues in Criminal Justice
    • Journal of Offender Rehabilitation


  • Changes in public perception towards inmates and their re-entry to the community.
  • Enhanced education and resources available to inmates to support their employment post incarceration
  • Government funding
  • A reduction in recidivism rates noted in the ABS


Abrams, L. S., Hughes, E., Inderbitzin, M. & Meek, R. (2016) The Voluntary Sector in Prisons. Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology, Volume 1: 206 – 218.

Ashton, S. (2014) Researcher or nurse? Difficulties of undertaking semi-structured interviews on sensitive topics. Nurse Researcher, 22(1): 27 – 31.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2018) Prisoners in Australia, 2018 Available at: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4517.0 [Accessed 12 August 2019].

Australian Taxation Office (2018) Taxation Determination Available at: https://www.ato.gov.au/law/view/view.htm?docid=%22TXD%2FTD201811%2FNAT%2FATO%2F00001%22#main-content [Accessed 12 August 2019].

Berg, M. T. & Huebner, B. M. (2010) Rentry and the ties that bind: An examination of social ties, employment, and recidivism. Justice Quarterly, 28(2): 381 – 410.

Glassdoor (2019) Research Assistant Salaries Available at: https://www.glassdoor.com.au/Salaries/research-assistant-salary-SRCH_KO0,18.htm [Accessed 12 August 2019].

Lockwood, S. K., Nally, J. M. & Ho, T. (2016) Race, Education, Employment, and Recidivism among Offenders in the United States: An Exploration of Complex Issues in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 11(1): 57 -74.

Morgan, A. (2018) How much does prison really cost? Comparing the costs of imprisonment with community corrections, Canberra: Australian Insitutute of Criminology.

NSW Government (2017) Reducing Reoffending Available at: https://www.correctiveservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/CorrectiveServices/programs/reducing-reoffending/Reducing-reoffending.aspx [Accessed 12 August 2019].

NSW Government (2019) Preparing Offenders for a Working Life Available at: https://www.csi.nsw.gov.au/Pages/about-csi/about-csi.aspx [Accessed 12 August 2019].

NSW Government (2019) Re-offending​ statistics for NSW Available at: https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_pages/Re-offending.aspx [Accessed 12 August 2019].

Parliament of New South Wales (1978) Report of the Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons, New South Wales: Government Printer.

Renford, R. (2017) The Prison Education Project. International Review of Education, 1(23): 1 – 24.

Seek (2019) Criminologist Available at: https://www.seek.com.au/learning/careers/criminologist [Accessed 12 August 2019].

The Allen Consulting Group (2009). Understanding the cost of university research. Sydney: The Allen Consulting Group: 6

UNSW (2019) GMO Guide: Budget Preparation Available at: https://research.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/files/documents/GMO%20Guide%20-%20Budget%20Preparation%2025102018.pdf [Accessed 12 August 2019].

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