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Inmates are in prison for a reason

By Greg Cornwell - 3 May 2016 21

Alexander Maconochie Centre

Prison reform has returned to Canberra and we are advised indigenous detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre has risen to 27 percent of our prison population – up from an average of about 18 percent.

The figures are from a very small base, representing 96 people and most citizens would take the sensible attitude the increase was because more crimes were committed and punished.

The ACT is different from elsewhere in Australia however. Here we run an expensive ($150,000 per detainee as opposed to the national average of $110,000) “human rights” prison, thus the extra expense of jailing offenders does not appear to be working here in Canberra to the consternation of those seeking to reform.

Unfortunately there often is more hope than help in rehabilitation and while nobody should question well-meaning attempts to provide ex-prisoners with a purposeful life, surely with our concerns about the incarceration rate, indigenous or not, we shouldn’t be focussing upon our prison. Sentencing options should be the target.

Certainly on published figures we have a lower if increasing rate of detainees than the Australian average but then our population is smaller. This should not prevent us from examining our penalties and perhaps reducing them for some crimes. Yet even this worthwhile exercise raises other issues.

In small part Canberra has been affected and the AMC has been enlarged to incorporate this increase and while this might have created some extra jobs it is nothing like elsewhere in Australia, where many country towns have benefited economically from the building of a prison.

Some might claim the financial advantages of these rural developments encourages more sentences – after all these extra cells have to be filled – but isn’t it also true with increased population more people break the law, like the rising road toll from more traffic on the roads?

Whatever alternatives we apply to alleviate rising jail numbers I do not envy those tasked with reviewing sentencing options because society is not sympathetic. No matter what the media claim about cynical “law and order” elections by politicians they are effective because that is what most electors want. Just try running on a platform of no law and order!

There is distrust with lesser sentences, often fired up by criminals released only to reoffend and a belief among ordinary people those imposing sentences are removed from the realities of the real world.

Their lifestyles do not impact with the hoi polloi and they rarely suffer the senseless killing, raping or maiming too often the lot of the majority of the population. This is perhaps why the abolition of the death penalty was never taken to the people. The majority might just have supported its retention in certain circumstances.

By all means review sentencing options, including good behaviour, but remember inmates are in prison for a reason. They should not be figures to be manipulated to improve the release record and neither should they be seen, often by reformers, as those who deserve unqualified compassion.

File photo of Alexander Maconochie Centre by Charlotte Harper

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21 Responses to
Inmates are in prison for a reason
1
HenryBG 3:16 pm
03 May 16
#

“This should not prevent us from examining our penalties and perhaps reducing them for some crimes.”

Wha…? How about *increasing* them?

I am fully with the idea of a community justice engagement with offenders to divert them away from crime.
For the first one or two offences.

3 or more offences and they should be locked up for 20 years.

Additionally, crimes such as failing to stop for police and being involved in a pursuit are barely punished at all – they should be treated as multiples counts of attempted murder – as many counts as there are people in the vicinity of any part of the pursuit.

Parole should be conditional on being able to medically prove you are on an approved form of birth control, as should community service orders or periodic detentions.

There is no excuse for crime in this prosperous society of ours, and it should be punished to the max.

2
Rollersk8r 4:00 pm
03 May 16
#

Lost me from the first sentence. Prison reform has returned to Canberra? Huh?

What does this sentence even mean: Their lifestyles do not impact with the hoi polloi and they rarely suffer the senseless killing, raping or maiming too often the lot of the majority of the population??

Politicians and decision makers are never victims of crime?? Says who?

Is this piece meant to be about indigenous incarceration, sentencing options, whether Canberra needs a prison, or criminals always deserving imprisonment, OR all of the above??

3
Evilomlap 2:16 pm
04 May 16
#

dungfungus said :

Lost me from the first sentence. Prison reform has returned to Canberra? Huh?

What does this sentence even mean: Their lifestyles do not impact with the hoi polloi and they rarely suffer the senseless killing, raping or maiming too often the lot of the majority of the population??

Politicians and decision makers are never victims of crime?? Says who?

Is this piece meant to be about indigenous incarceration, sentencing options, whether Canberra needs a prison, or criminals always deserving imprisonment, OR all of the above??

Don’t worry mate, I was as lost as you were. This article is all over the place. It’s a reasonably entertaining read, though.

“senseless killing, raping or maiming too often the lot of the majority of the population” I’d venture this phrase could be applied to say, Fallujah. It certainly doesn’t apply to Canberra.

4
HenryBG 5:09 pm
04 May 16
#

dungfungus said :

Politicians and decision makers are never victims of crime?? Says who?

I can’t seem to lay my hands on it right now, but I seem to recall a few years ago reading something which claimed that judges who *had* been victims of crime were being significantly harder when handing down their criminal sentences.

I think it should be compulsory for sentencing to be carried out by people who themselves have been victims of similar crimes to the ones they are judging.

I also think a severe overhaul of victims of crime compensation needs to be undertaken – at the moment it is a cash-cow funded by the non-criminal taxpayer and exploited largely by the welfare class.

5
James_Ryan 12:30 am
05 May 16
#

Wowsers.

I wonder if people spouting some of this garbage spend one second of their lives thinking “I wonder what the published evidence says about how to improve outcomes?”

Instead of just making stuff up – fueled by prejudice and ignorance – about what absurd and poorly conceived penalties might best PUNISH offenders, spare a thought for what we might learn from countries who are doing criminal justice and rehabilitation a whole lot better than us.

What do you want from a criminal justice system? Do you want offenders coming out better people, or do you want offenders coming out more damaged and more likely to offend?

The former is achievable, but people will need to let go of simplistic notions such as “3 or more offences and they should be locked up for 20 years”.

The community deserves so much better than the garbage currently masquerading as a human rights compliant prison.

6
Here_and_Now 11:22 am
05 May 16
#

JC said :

I also think a severe overhaul of victims of crime compensation needs to be undertaken – at the moment it is a cash-cow funded by the non-criminal taxpayer and exploited largely by the welfare class.

Oh. I’ve not heard about this. What happens with the victims-of-crime? Who does what?

And what is your preferred, overhauled, scenario?

7
HenryBG 10:21 pm
05 May 16
#

dungfungus said :

Wowsers.

I wonder if people spouting some of this garbage spend one second of their lives thinking “I wonder what the published evidence says about how to improve outcomes?”

The published evidence shows that “3 strikes and you’re out (for 20 years)” dramatically reduced crime in New York.
And I mean – dramatically. Murders went from 2000 per year down to 300.

dungfungus said :

Instead of just making stuff up – fueled by prejudice and ignorance – about what absurd and poorly conceived penalties might best PUNISH offenders, spare a thought for what we might learn from countries who are doing criminal justice and rehabilitation a whole lot better than us.

Actually, I don’t give a flying fruitbat about “rehabilitation” (whatever that is – although I suspect it has something to do with cunning, streetwise and cynical people dedicated to a life of crime pulling the wool over the eyes of naive bleeding-heart do-gooders).
I’m not even particularly interested in seeing them punished, although that doesn’t hurt.
What I want is for people who persistently commit crime to be permanently removed from society. Simple of that.
If two convictions doesn’t correct their behaviour, get rid of them forever.

dungfungus said :

What do you want from a criminal justice system? Do you want offenders coming out better people, or do you want offenders coming out more damaged and more likely to offend?

I want them coming out wihotu a sense of entitelment, with humility, and with a genuine desire to mend their ways.
Alternatively, I don’t want them coming out at all.

dungfungus said :

The former is achievable, but people will need to let go of simplistic notions such as “3 or more offences and they should be locked up for 20 years”.

Simple is good.
If 3 brushes with the law doesn’t convince them to stop being scumbags, let’s go with a simple solution.

dungfungus said :

The community deserves so much better than the garbage currently masquerading as a human rights compliant prison.

Agreed.
The facilities are far too expensive.
These crims should be housed in tents, and they should be cooking their own meals from whatever is leftover at the Fyshwick markets on a Sunday night.
I think the taxpayer should fork out for weekly drug tests. Any scum that fails it should be put in solitary for a month.
The cost of incarcerating them should be reduced by at least a factor of 5.
Alternatively, we could hire them out to customers in the middle east to be used as convict labor. The rehabilitation incentives would be strong enough to convince even the biggest dropkick criminal scumbag.

8
wildturkeycanoe 6:42 am
06 May 16
#

Mordd said :

Agreed.
The facilities are far too expensive.
These crims should be housed in tents, and they should be cooking their own meals from whatever is leftover at the Fyshwick markets on a Sunday night.
I think the taxpayer should fork out for weekly drug tests. Any scum that fails it should be put in solitary for a month.
The cost of incarcerating them should be reduced by at least a factor of 5.
Alternatively, we could hire them out to customers in the middle east to be used as convict labor. The rehabilitation incentives would be strong enough to convince even the biggest dropkick criminal scumbag.

Hear hear! Are you running in this year’s election? I won’t hesitate for a second to put a number 1 in the box next to your name.

9
SunRider 9:28 am
06 May 16
#

What an innovative approach HenryBG,”If two convictions doesn’t correct their behaviour, get rid of them forever”. I trust you won’t be whining when we need to fund a further 3,4, or even 5 new prisons to house all the lifers such a policy would create? Maybe you’ll volunteer to be a foster carer to a few of the hordes of children left without parents?

Sigh, I had been wondering how someone like Trump had gained such traction in the US. Now I see why.

10
dungfungus 3:49 pm
06 May 16
#

John Hargreaves said :

What an innovative approach HenryBG,”If two convictions doesn’t correct their behaviour, get rid of them forever”. I trust you won’t be whining when we need to fund a further 3,4, or even 5 new prisons to house all the lifers such a policy would create? Maybe you’ll volunteer to be a foster carer to a few of the hordes of children left without parents?

Sigh, I had been wondering how someone like Trump had gained such traction in the US. Now I see why.

“someone like Trump”
What do you precisely mean by this?

11
rommeldog56 4:17 pm
06 May 16
#

John Hargreaves said :

What an innovative approach HenryBG,”If two convictions doesn’t correct their behaviour, get rid of them forever”. I trust you won’t be whining when we need to fund a further 3,4, or even 5 new prisons to house all the lifers such a policy would create? Maybe you’ll volunteer to be a foster carer to a few of the hordes of children left without parents?

Sigh, I had been wondering how someone like Trump had gained such traction in the US. Now I see why.

The current prison clearly isn’t working re their approach to rehabilitation & re offending Last I heard reincarnation rate was about 70%. So, something has to change, but there seems to me to be far too many bleeding harts involved.

12
wildturkeycanoe 8:12 pm
06 May 16
#

John Hargreaves said :

What an innovative approach HenryBG,”If two convictions doesn’t correct their behaviour, get rid of them forever”. I trust you won’t be whining when we need to fund a further 3,4, or even 5 new prisons to house all the lifers such a policy would create? Maybe you’ll volunteer to be a foster carer to a few of the hordes of children left without parents?

Sigh, I had been wondering how someone like Trump had gained such traction in the US. Now I see why.

So letting them keep getting caught, tried, convicted, incarcerated and released infinitely will cost the community, the victims and the judicial system less? If they don’t learn from visiting jail, repeating the process indefinitely is a waste of time and money. A stronger disincentive, not hand holding and sympathy, is the only option. Having your hands cut off for stealing or genitalia removed for rape, will definitely stop reoffending.

13
agent_clone 12:48 pm
09 May 16
#

Mordd said :

dungfungus said :

Wowsers.

I wonder if people spouting some of this garbage spend one second of their lives thinking “I wonder what the published evidence says about how to improve outcomes?”

The published evidence shows that “3 strikes and you’re out (for 20 years)” dramatically reduced crime in New York.
And I mean – dramatically. Murders went from 2000 per year down to 300.

Published evidence also shows that legalized abortion and the removal of lead in petrol have had a significant effect in the reduction of crime. The illegality of abortion was removed in 1973 for all states in the USA, and leaded petrol was banned from sale for on road vehicles in 1996 in the USA.

14
wildturkeycanoe 7:45 am
10 May 16
#

A_Cog said :

Mordd said :

dungfungus said :

Wowsers.

I wonder if people spouting some of this garbage spend one second of their lives thinking “I wonder what the published evidence says about how to improve outcomes?”

The published evidence shows that “3 strikes and you’re out (for 20 years)” dramatically reduced crime in New York.
And I mean – dramatically. Murders went from 2000 per year down to 300.

Published evidence also shows that legalized abortion and the removal of lead in petrol have had a significant effect in the reduction of crime. The illegality of abortion was removed in 1973 for all states in the USA, and leaded petrol was banned from sale for on road vehicles in 1996 in the USA.

How on earth was removing lead from petrol a significant factor in crime reduction? That doesn’t make sense at all. So many other factors such as social changes towards punishment of criminals, the relaxation of many laws from last century, etc seem much more relevant.
A graph of Australian violent crimes does not reflect the same trends as this study, rather our crime rate is pretty steady and about a tenth of that in the U.S. We removed lead from our fuel in 2002 with no change in crime rate, so it must have been something different in the American study that brought them to this conclusion.

15
Maya123 8:51 am
10 May 16
#

Rustygear said :

A_Cog said :

Mordd said :

dungfungus said :

Wowsers.

I wonder if people spouting some of this garbage spend one second of their lives thinking “I wonder what the published evidence says about how to improve outcomes?”

The published evidence shows that “3 strikes and you’re out (for 20 years)” dramatically reduced crime in New York.
And I mean – dramatically. Murders went from 2000 per year down to 300.

Published evidence also shows that legalized abortion and the removal of lead in petrol have had a significant effect in the reduction of crime. The illegality of abortion was removed in 1973 for all states in the USA, and leaded petrol was banned from sale for on road vehicles in 1996 in the USA.

How on earth was removing lead from petrol a significant factor in crime reduction? That doesn’t make sense at all. So many other factors such as social changes towards punishment of criminals, the relaxation of many laws from last century, etc seem much more relevant.
A graph of Australian violent crimes does not reflect the same trends as this study, rather our crime rate is pretty steady and about a tenth of that in the U.S. We removed lead from our fuel in 2002 with no change in crime rate, so it must have been something different in the American study that brought them to this conclusion.

A quick google:
http://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/australian-study-finds-higher-lead-levels-are-linked-to-violent-crime/news-story/744b91908d70c4ea42c58afece269cdc

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