Prison jobs: a false economy
13 February 2012
The Victorian Government’s announcement of 1,500 jobs for prison expansion was today heavily criticised by the Smart Justice Coalition, a coalition of leading community and legal groups.
“Prison expansion is a false economy,” said Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser. “Longer jail terms are incredibly expensive, don’t deter would be offenders and can increase the risks of reoffending on release. The money we spend on prison expansion in the short term will cost society in the long term.”
Victoria’s prison growth has outstripped population with prisoner numbers increasing 44% over the past decade. Victoria’s jails are at capacity and the Parole Board recently warned of emerging problems of overcrowding. In 2010, the previous Victorian Labor government estimated that prisoner numbers would increase a further 45 per cent over the decade, costing billions of dollars in prison construction and operation. Last year, the Department of Justice warned that the government’s sentencing reforms would be the main driver of prison growth.
Studies suggest that very substantial increases in imprisonment will produce only a modest reduction in crime and there is evidence that prison increases the likelihood of people reoffending after release. Research indicates that reducing disadvantage, preventing child neglect and improving education, employment and housing can be cost effective ways of cutting crime.
“Instead of expanding our jails to satisfy a misguided punitive sentencing agenda, the government should be redirecting funds towards programs that have been shown to be cost effective ways of preventing crime. The government could be employing teachers not prison guards. It could be building public housing instead of prisons. It could be helping people beat the alcohol, drug and gambling problems that are the cause of many crimes,” said Mr de Kretser. “Instead of 500 prison beds, the government could build accommodation for 1,000 families at risk of homelessness.”
A fact sheet explaining why more prisons are not the answer to reducing crime is available on the Smart Justice website www.smartjustice.org.au.
Hugh de Kretser 0403 965 340