Offender Services and Programs
Welcome to the Home Page of the Offender Services and Programs Branch of Corrective Services NSW.
The Branch provides
- Rehabilitation programs and psychological services for offenders in custody and in the community
- Welfare services in custody to assist offenders with family contact and help maintain connection to the community
- Specialist services such as education, services for offenders with disabilities and vulnerable offenders at risk of self-harm
The Branch also provides specialist advice to sentencing and releasing authorities with respect to assessment of offenders’ specific risk, needs and responsivity factors that affect either sentencing procedures or release from custody. This advice is particularly relevant for offenders with cognitive and mental health impairments.
The Branch does not provide Health Services. In custody these are provided by Justice Health, a specialist Area of NSW Health.
Click on any of the links below to go straight to the section you are interested in, or read through for an account of how the Offender Services and Programs Branch operates.
How do we provide these services and programs?
Programs and services for each offender are set out in an individual case plan. This plan is required by law and can include services and programs that aim to:
- develop skills, behaviours and attitudes that lessen the likelihood of re-offending
- contribute to the offender living in society after release from custody
- promote the health, safety and well-being of the offender
|Read more about the purpose of sentencing and how OS&P contributes to the administration of sentences in NSW click here|
The OS&P Branch also provides services and programs to people remanded into the custody of CSNSW while awaiting trial or sentencing, particularly those with mental health and cognitive impairments, and / or other factors that make them vulnerable in custody.
These factors can include being from a group with specific needs such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, refugees, people with the care and custody of children, young offenders, those with physical or sensory disabilities, elderly offenders and persons from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds (CALD).
For more information about services and programs for offenders with specific needs. click here
For more information about services and programs for remandees. click here
What do the services and programs try to achieve?
Services and programs address our Duty of Care, our contribution to reducing re-offending and our obligation to assist with resettlement into the community.
Promoting health, safety and well-being - our duty of care
Because they have limited freedom, particularly in custody, offenders may be unable to address a range of needs in the way that another person could. For this reason CSNSW has a duty to provide reasonable access to healthcare, education, counselling etc. These services contribute to a safe environment for offenders and those who work with them.
Reducing the risk of re-offending
CSNSW is committed under the NSW State Plan “NSW 2021” to reduce the rate of re-offending by 5% by 2021. Group programs designed to contribute to this goal are described in the Compendium of Correctional Programs in NSW. A range of services also contribute to this goal and include psychological services, the Statewide Disability Service, the Personality and Behavioural Disorders Unit and others.
Integrating offenders into the general community
Because they came from the community, belong to the community, and will for the most part return to the community, offenders require assistance to maintain links to community. This may occur when in full time custody, when returning to community from full time custody, or when serving a sentence under supervision in the community. The needs of the offender, the needs of their victims, and the safety and well-being of the general community are taken into account when providing services and programs to offenders that assist reintegration into the community.
How do we make the case plan
The case plan is a goal-oriented pathway from the beginning to the end of the sentence. It provides activities and interventions that aim to increase the likelihood that a person will lead a life without harming others or themselves.
The case plan considers the sentencing court’s comments in relation to the offender and starts with an assessment based on a model called the “Risk–Needs–Responsivity” model:
1. Risk: we assess how likely it is that a person will re-offend and we target the people who have the highest risk scores
2. Needs: we assess which areas of a person’s life are associated with their offending (this includes things like education, employment, drug and alcohol use, peer group influence and beliefs)
3. Responsivity: this is the term for all the individual characteristics and circumstances that affect how a person responds to, and benefits from, services and programs.
|Read more about the Risk-Needs-Responsivity Model here|
How are Offenders Assessed for Referral to Services and Programs?
After the LSI-R and the Static 99R, further assessments are done according to the individual needs of the offender. Assessments designed to contribute to the case plan are described in the Compendium of Assessments.
With approximately 9000 offenders in custody and 18,000 offenders supervised in the community, assessments play a key role in ensuring that the right offender is referred to the right service or program at the right time. In 2012 CSNSW published the Compendium of Assessments listing all the instruments that have been approved for use by CSNSW staff. They include all psychological and psychometric tests and all other assessments. The Compendium of Assessments is available here.
|Read more about the Compendium of Assessments here|
The Level of Service Inventory – revised (LSI-R)(Andrews & Bonta 2005) is recognised as one of the most effective methods for determining which offenders should be prioritised for interventions and it is the primary risk/need assessment used in CSNSW. For sex offenders, the STATIC 99R is used.
The LSI-R is an actuarial assessment tool used to determine: 1) an offender’s risk of re-offending, how likely they are to re-offend when they are at liberty, and, 2) the set of criminogenic needs for each offender, that is, the risk factors associated with their offending. The factors that are identified as problematic or related to criminal conduct become targets for intervention and are used to develop the offender’s case plan. Typically they include areas such as education and employment, drug and alcohol (AOD) history and effects, criminal attitudes, mental health, criminal associates and history of crime.
LSI-R results indicate which areas need to be targeted to reduce the risk of re-offending, whether through the provision of services (such as assistance with finding stable accommodation), or programs (such as alcohol and other drug rehabilitation programs).
Services are available to all offenders, but CSNSW provides programs only for offenders with an LSI-R of “medium” or above.
- There are exceptions to this programs rule. For more information, contact OffenderProgramsUnit @dcs.nsw.gov.au
The Static-99R (Harris, Phenix, Hanson, & Thornton, 2003; Helmus, Babchishin, Hanson, & Thornton, 2009) is an instrument designed to assist in the prediction of an offender’s risk of sexual re-offending. The Static-99R has moderate predictive accuracy, consists of 10 items, and produces estimates of future risk based on a number of risk factors present in any one individual. The total score (obtained by summing all the items) ranges from -3 to 12.
The use of instruments such as the LSI-R and Static-99R has some limitations. The recidivism estimates and relative rankings are based on groups of individuals and therefore these estimates/rankings will not necessarily directly reflect the recidivism risk of an individual offender. Similarly, the Static-99R is not sensitive to the changes in an offender’s circumstances that may increase or decrease the individual’s actual risk of re-offending, i.e. it does not assess areas of need.
Literacy and the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF)
When determining the literacy demands that a program places on a participant it is important to take into a account the nationally recognised indicators for describing the core skill levels of the adult Australian population in reading, writing, oral communication, numeracy and learning. Until recently the system in use throughout Australia was the National Reporting System (NRS). However in 2008 this was replaced by the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF). Currently all offenders coming into custody are assessed using the ACSF which yields competence levels in reading, writing, numeracy and oracy.
All programs in the Compendium have been reviewed to determine the ACS level required to be able to participate fully. This is generally around ACS3. Poor literacy is not a reason to exclude offenders from programs. Rather the level indicates that the facilitator needs to be aware that the participant may require extra assistance with reading or writing tasks. This means that the facilitator may have to work harder or more creatively to meet the particular needs of the individual. The principle of responsivity, described above, indicates that the message needs to be communicated in a way that maximises the group member’s capacity to respond and engage. This may well be a modality that does not rely on reading and writing. Another way to assist groups who have low literacy levels is for group programs to be co-facilitated with teachers who have particular expertise in literacy.
What other assessments do we use?
What services are provided for offenders?
Direct services are provided to offenders in custody and in the community. Many services are specific to the environment of custody. The need for service is identified through a formal assessment process for the following purposes:
To promote health, safety and well-being - our duty of care
- Provide access to basic human rights of health, education (including libraries) and religious, spiritual and pastoral services, particularly for inmates in custody
- Assistance to integrate and adjust to custody or supervision whilst remaining engaged with community
- Critical incident support services following traumatic incidents that occur whilst offenders are in custody
- Assistance and preventive strategies for offenders identified as ‘at risk’ of suicide and /or self harm
- Assistance for offenders with cognitive, physical and sensory disabilities including frail aged
- Assistance to offenders identified as having a mental health impairment to ensure their well-being
- Assistance to offenders with challenging behaviours who pose a security threat to others to promote their safety and the safety of others
- Maintenance and improvement of health, fitness and well being for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle through provision of sports, hobby and recreational activities, particularly for inmates in custody
- Prevention of drug related harm through environmental strategies, health information and education programs, and workforce development strategies
To reduce the risk of re-offending
- Interventions for offenders identified as having a mental health impairment to enhance their ability to participate in programs that reduce risk of re-offending
- Interventions for offenders identified as having a cognitive, sensory or physical disability to ensure that they can access and participate in programs that reduce risk of re-offending
- Interventions for offenders with challenging behaviours who pose a security threat to others to enhance their ability to participate in programs that reduce risk of re-offending
- Interventions within a harm minimization framework for offenders identified as abusing substances in custody to enhance their ability to participate in programs that reduce risk of re-offending
- Ongoing basic skills development in literacy and numeracy access to industrial and vocational training of offenders
- Interventions for other responsivity factors to enhance offenders’ suitability and readiness to participate in programs that reduce their risk of re-offending
To integrate offenders into the general community and desist from crime
- Assistance to adjust to conditions of community supervision in order to promote the successful completion of community-based Orders
- Assistance to improve, develop and maintain family contact and relationships assistance to access community service providers such as community health, education and training, housing and social security agencies, immigration agencies
- Assistance to families of inmates in relation to issues that arise as a result of incarceration e.g. visits, child care and contact issues, travel, offender accounts, illness and death in custody etc.
- Assistance with pre-release activities for inmates to reintegrate to the community and desist from crime
- Assistance to offenders identified as having a mental health impairment to access appropriate service agencies
- Assistance to offenders identified as having a cognitive, sensory or physical disability including frail aged, to access appropriate service agencies
- Assistance to offenders with challenging behaviours who pose a security threat to others to promote community safety
How do we choose the group programs we use?
Like many other jurisdictions, New South Wales has compiled a set of standards that programs have to meet if they are to be run with offenders. In 2003 CSNSW published these standards in the Strategic Accreditation Framework ( under review) which draws on work in other English-speaking jurisdictions and sets out how program materials should be designed, how they should show evidence of being based on sound theory and how they should be implemented. Programs that meet these criteria are included in the Compendium of Correctional Programs New South Wales and are authorised for use with offenders.
The difference between the programs in the Compendium and any other group activities that offenders may attend is that offenders may be directed to participate in the Compendium programs as part of their case plan. By including programs in the Compendium, CSNSW indicates that it has subjected these to scrutiny and can vouch for their suitability as interventions that can reasonably be expected to contribute to a reduction in the risk of re-offending. In contrast, CSNSW does not make that claim for any program that is not included in the Compendium.
Training and Support for Delivering Group Programs
Programs are run by a variety of staff including specialist Program Facilitators, Probation and Parole Officers, psychologists and other Offender Services and Programs staff (e.g. Services and Programs officers, AOD counsellors, welfare officers, counselling and support officers). All of these staff receive training in group work and in the content of the programs.
|Read more about training for program delivery here|
The supervision and support of Program Facilitators and other staff who deliver programs is a major task for CSNSW Offender Programs Unit. To support this we have published a Program Supervision Framework which provides a quality assurance tool that can be applied to promote reflective practice and professional development of those involved in program delivery. The Offender Programs Unit provides supervision by conducting site visits, videotaped sessions, video conferencing and teleconferencing.
Supervision and support of psychologists who deliver Sex and Violent Offender Therapeutic Programs (SVOTP) is provided by Senior Psychologists from the SVOTP. These psychologists participate in relevant ongoing professional development consistent with the requirements of the Psychology Board of Australia.
|Read the Supervision Framework here|
How do we report and evaluate programs and services delivered across custody and community?
The implementation of the program and services module in 2011 within the Offender Inmate Management System (OIMS) has provided the platform for improved reporting and evaluation of programs and services.
The major improvements include:
- An electronic referral system. This has provided the basis for greater continuity of services and programs delivery, as the referral (or service/program line) created at one agency automatically follows the offender as they move within and between custodial and community locations. The obligation is then terminated when the offender has been assessed for eligibility/suitability, or when the service/program has been delivered.
- The capacity for prospective program scheduling, which provides a future-oriented focus: previous reporting mechanisms have been limited to reporting on what has occurred. Prospective scheduling brings with it the expectation that staff in Correctional Centres and Community Offender Services offices will schedule programs on OIMS for the following six month period. This encourages improved resource allocation, so that offenders can be transferred to locations where a program has been scheduled, thereby fulfilling requirements established via needs analyses and case plans.
- The development and implementation of a wide range of operational reports, including needs analyses, to assist staff in prioritising resources to target offenders with high risks and specific needs. These reports provide a wealth of detail from the various assessment tools and enhance the focus on special interest/specific needs groups including:
- offenders with disabilities
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders (ATSI) (See a summary of program outcomes for the financial year 11/12 at this link)
- Culturally and linguistically diverse offenders (CALD)
- female offenders (See a summary of the completion rates of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women, January to December 2011)
- young adult offenders