16 May 2023, 13:16
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Rachel PAYNE (South-Eastern Metropolitan):
My question is for the Minister for Corrections Mr Erdogan. The rate of mental illness amongst people in the criminal justice system is much higher than in the general population. For people in jail it is higher still. A recent study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that approximately 40 per cent of people entering prison had experienced some form of mental illness, double the rate of people in the community. Antidepressants and benzodiazepines are prescribed to prisoners to manage conditions like anxiety and insomnia, again at a greater rate than they are for the general population. These can be highly addictive drugs. So I ask the minister: given medicinal cannabis is a lawful prescription medication used to treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder, what consideration has been given to allowing its prescription within the Victorian prison system?

Enver ERDOGAN (Northern Metropolitan – Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support):
I thank Ms Payne for that question. It relates to my portfolio of responsibilities in corrections and obviously our adult custodial settings and the health and wellbeing of those in our custody. Broadly speaking, the treatment that people in our custody receive is different to what is available in the community for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is that the types of drugs that can be brought into that custodial setting need to be different, because obviously a lot of people inside are also receiving treatment for drug and alcohol addiction issues, so they are getting treated. In terms of your specific question, I would need to take that element of it on notice, because it has not been raised with me before and I have not been briefed on that perspective. Thank you for that question.

Rachel PAYNE:
Thank you, Minister. I thank you for your response and taking that on notice. By way of supplementary I ask: given that medicinal cannabis is a lawful and relevant medicine, what other than stigma is preventing its use within the Victorian prison system?

I thank Ms Payne for that supplementary question. As I stated in my substantive, I think the range of options for treatment in a custodial setting needs to be different for a variety of reasons. Obviously we consult with health professionals, and we have got Justice Health, which always provides us with advice about what is appropriate and what is not. But I will take those details on board and provide a response to you in a timely fashion.

The President ordered a written response for both questions


Written Answer
Received: 17 May 2023
Hon. Enver Erdogan MLC
(Minister for Corrections, Minister for Youth Justice, Minister for Victim Support)

Health service providers are required to ensure that medications are managed, dispensed, administered and reviewed in a manner consistent with legislation, regulation, professional guidelines and accepted standards.

There can be differences between the treatment options available for people in custody compared with in the community, for a number of reasons. The prescription of medications to people in custody is at the discretion of the treating clinician. 


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