September 17, 2013 |
The Victorian Government’s announcement of plans to double the capacity of the new Ravenhall prison to 1000 beds is planning for the wrong future and risks reducing community safety rather than improving it, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of community organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.
“Premier Napthine claims he is ‘planning for the future’ with this expansion, but we know that building new prisons is a flawed attempt to contain the consequences of crime, rather than to address its causes and stop crime before it happens,” said Smart Justice spokesperson, Michelle McDonnell, today.
In its media release announcing the expansion plans, the Victorian Government cited a population increase in Victoria as a driver in the demand for new prison beds, but the reality is that its law-and-order agenda is fuelling prison growth through the abolition of suspended sentences, mandatory minimum sentences and new restrictions on parole.
“These changes will have a much broader effect than addressing the threat posed by genuinely dan-gerous offenders, and they risk swelling an already over-crowded system at a very high economic and social cost that far outweighs the prison jobs cited by Government as an economic benefit.
“Prisons are economically unsustainable, but, concerningly for community safety, the evidence is in that they further criminalise people and increase the prospect of reoffending. Building new prisons is not building a safer Victoria as the Premier claims,” Ms McDonnell said.
“We should be investing much more in programs to address the causes of crime, programs that divert young people from the justice system, and programs that focus on rehabilitation and support for prisoners re-entering the community. Instead, the Government is focusing on a containment policy it claims is founded on community expectations but is at odds with the evidence,” she said.
Ms McDonnell said there was a role for prison, but as a measure of last resort for people who pose a real danger to the community. She said that treating high-risk offenders as broadly representative of the entire prison population was a mistake that could lead rapidly to a prison system that increased community risk.
“That’s planning for a future of dependence on new Ravenhalls. That might seem to be taking tough action on crime, but it doesn’t work. Even countries with high incarceration rates such as the United States are facing that reality and implementing alternatives,” Ms McDonnell said.
“If we’re looking at risks and benefits, we need a full accounting – not just the part of the story that misleads the public into thinking that prisons are the only answer,” she concluded.
Michelle McDonnell 0488 778 099
For media information:
Darren Lewin-Hill 0488 773 535