The facts on “tough-on-crime” speak for themselves

December 05, 2013 |

A statement by Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue suggesting that a campaign to solve the prison crisis and boost community safety is politically aligned and not based on facts has been rejected by Smart Justice, a broad-based coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

“The Smart Justice coalition has been working to improve community safety since 2006 by promoting what works to cut crime. The evidence shows that simplistic criminal justice policies focused primarily on increasing imprisonment will raise, rather than reduce, offending and come with an unsustainable cost. The facts are:

  • Victoria’s prison population has increased by 51 per cent over the last nine years to more than 5700 prisoners and has been growing by around 100 prisoners each month this fiscal year.
  • The increase in imprisonment in Victoria is outstripping the capacity to safely house prisoners, with data showing an increase in assaults, self-mutilations and other serious incidents in the system.
  • The Government has announced over $1 billion for 1,000 prison beds, and a total of 2,500 new beds are now in the pipeline. The total cost of these 2,500 beds has not been released.
  • A report by the Sentencing Advisory Council has found that prison increases the likelihood of reoffending.
  • Expenditure on rehabilitation, supporting the Adult Parole Board and increasing corrections staff is dwarfed by spending on new prisons.
  • Measures that stop whole categories of prisoners from being eligible for parole will lead to people being released with no supervision or conditions, which in turn will increase reoffending.
  • Despite a raft of tough-on-crime reforms, reported crime in Victoria has increased in the past two years.

“We agree too many people have died at the hands of parolees in recent years and the justice system must be strengthened to more effectively tackle crime.

“But Victorians deserve a system that works, not a system that fuels reoffending and creates more victims.

“We urge the Government to act on the evidence, and not to criticise those who communicate it for the broader benefit of community safety,” Ms McDonnell concluded.

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