It was encouraging to see the charismatic ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey come out in support of community correction sentences (also known as home detention) yesterday.
The idea of low risk offenders remaining within the community – so long as they contribute in a positive way – has always made more sense to me than periodic detention.
Earlier this year, ACT Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury ordered a three quarter of a million dollar review into some kind of alternative of sending people to jail for the weekend. At the time, the ACT Government said it was “ineffective and outdated” and planned to stop sending inmates to Symonston from the middle of next year.
This is probably a good thing too, considering the facility is now picking up the slack from the hopelessly inadequate Alexander Maconochie Centre.
The idea of monitoring low risk offenders electronically and imposing curfews sound fine on the surface, and it could be argued community based sentencing might be a viable alternative.
However, just a word of warning.
Community-based sentencing will save the government money in the short term, but if our magistrates go soft on offenders, it could end up costing more in the long run.
Consider the recent spate of armed robberies here in the capital. ACT Policing and the government tell us there is nothing to fear as they trot out even better crime figures each quarter. However, try and tell this to more than a dozen victims – those who have been threatened with guns, syringes, knives and in one recent horrific armed robbery, a machete.
This is all happening in our suburbs on a far too frequent basis. These aggravated robberies are quite often fuelled by ice or other drug addictions – and possibly involved a number of repeat offenders who have already gone through the prison system, only to end up in periodic detention, with little monitoring.
Civil libbies will hate me saying this – but so far as I’m concerned if you’ve been involved in serious criminal activity then perhaps someone should whack a bracelet around your ankle.
Marcus Paul is the host of Canberra Live 3pm weekdays on 2CC.