Double-bunking shows urgent need to reduce prison demand

July 03, 2013 |

On Tuesday 2 July 2013, The Age reported on plans to increase double-bunking in Victoria’s Barwon Prison and Melbourne Assessment Prison amid concerns regarding increased violence, overcrowding in police cells, and pressure in a prison system experiencing marked population growth. Today a response by the Federation of Community Legal Centres was published in the Letters pages.

It is concerning, but not surprising, that more bunks are being introduced to Victoria’s prisons to deal with overcrowding (‘‘Jail bed shortage? Bring in bunks”, 2/7). The government persists with policies that will increase prisoner numbers but will not tackle crime.

Victoria’s prison population has grown 40 per cent in the past decade and measures such as the introduction of statutory minimum sentences, the abolition of suspended sentences and the tightening of bail and parole will further drive prisoner numbers up. However, such changes appeal more to law-and-order populism rather than the evidence about what actually works in reducing offending.

More than $1 billion has been allocated to build new prison beds in the past three state budgets alone yet early intervention and prevention approaches that can help stop crime before it happens, and diversion and rehabilitation programs that help people from reoffending, remain massively underfunded.

We can continue with the headlong rush to increase prison capacity, or do what’s needed to reduce the need for prison. It’s a choice between continuing an economically unsustainable policy or a safer community for all.

Liana Buchanan
Executive Officer
Federation of Community Legal Centres

Cross-posted from the Federation of Community Legal Centres

Update: The crowding of police cells and the prison system has continued to feature in the media:

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