Just under half the female prisoner population in secure custody in Queensland are remanded in custody without a conviction.

There are many reasons why women are remanded in custody, some are unable to access support to comply with their bail conditions, others lack safe and stable housing and some have not been able to access legal support to assist in applying for bail.

In response to the significant growth of the female remand population, QCS initiated funding for the Supreme Court Bail Program to support remanded women in South-east Queensland to apply for bail.

The program commenced as a pilot in March this year and is delivered by the independent community organisation, Sisters Inside.

“Most women are refused bail because of homelessness, drug addictions or mental health issues. The Supreme Court Bail Program provides court support and advocacy for individual women. We also secure accommodation and access to rehabilitation services, counselling and transport to comply with their bail conditions,” says Sisters Inside Chief Executive Officer, Debbie Kilroy.

A Sisters Inside appointed solicitor triages remanded prisoners to determine their eligibility for the program and provides support during their bail application.

The solicitor is assisted by two prisoners who have been trained as peer bail clerks. The key focus of the program is to support women to address the issues that may have contributed to being remanded in custody, such as a lack of accommodation.

At 30 November this year, 31 prisoners had successfully applied for and were released on bail. This allows the women to return to their communities and families, whilst awaiting determination of their court matters. It also produces cost savings by reducing the number of women in custody that could otherwise be safely supported in the community.

Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre is the only reception, remand, assessment and placement centre for female prisoners in southern Queensland. Its catchment boundaries reach north to Gladstone, west to the South Australian and Northern Territory borders and south to the New South Wales border.

General Manager, Kate Holman says the program has had a significant effect within the centre.

“31 women having been released is quite significant when you realise the cost per prisoner, per day. It’s quite a successful program and its success, I think, is largely due to the commitment not only of the solicitor, but the prisoners who have been trained and act as clerks in the centre,” says Kate.

As a result of the success of the program in South-east Queensland, QCS will extend the pilot to Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre, which will be delivered by Sisters Inside from January 2017.