15 April 2024

Prospect of jail doesn't deter people from committing crimes, former inmate says

| Albert McKnight
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Jayke Fleury in Jailing is Failing T-shirt

Jayke Fleury recently graduated from a first-of-its-kind program by the Justice Reform Initiative. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Does the prospect of jail stop someone from committing crimes? This question can elicit an emotive debate, but one man who has spent time behind bars has a clear answer.

“It’s not a deterrent, and it becomes less of a deterrent,” 38-year-old Jayke Fleury said.

“When people commit offences, they are not committing offences thinking about going to jail; there are often things going on in their lives … They are caught up in whatever they are caught up in.”

While Fleury has a history of being imprisoned himself, he has also recently graduated from a first-of-its-kind program by the Justice Reform Initiative (JRI) that aims to support and empower people with lived experience of incarceration in the ACT by developing their skills as public speakers and advocates.

He said his time in prison was marked by boredom, remarking there was “nothing positive” in it.

“Jail is a savage place by nature, and when people go there, to survive, they have to shed a bit of their humanity. Once they lose that, it’s a bit harder to find again,” he said.

He also thought people regressed when they were locked up.

“I understand that people aren’t going there for a holiday. I think it’s advantageous for everyone if the drivers behind the offending are addressed,” he said.

“People do return here [to the community] at some point, and it’s in everyone’s interest that they return better people, but that’s not the case at all.”

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A report by the JRI, released earlier this year, says the ACT has the highest rate of people returning to prison in Australia, with 80 per cent of all the Territory’s inmates having previously spent time in custody.

It says it costs $120 million to lock up adults and children each year in the ACT. Also, while First Nations people make up only about 2 per cent of the ACT population, they make up 27 per cent of those incarcerated.

Fleury thought it was the “sitting around” and the environment in jail that made detainees regress, and that opportunities to better themselves “just don’t exist”.

“If people can be rehabilitated, it’s for the community’s benefit; that means there will be no more victims and no more cost to the taxpayer,” he said.

“People can become productive members of society.”

He did say jail time was needed in certain cases, but he credits diversionary sentencing as what changed his life as he benefitted from both restorative justice and the ACT’s Drug and Alcohol Court.

This court aims to reduce offending by rehabilitating high-risk and high-need offenders who have serious issues with drug or alcohol use.

Justice Reform Initiative representatives outside the Legislative Assembly

Supporters of the Justice Reform Initiative, Professor Lorana Bartels, Robert Tickner, Dr Mindy Sotiri, and the JRI’s ACT campaign coordinator, Indra Esguerra, spoke at the launch of their new report earlier this year. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Fleury said the court looked at addressing the drivers of offending and supporting someone in their rehabilitation, while restorative justice gave an offender “a 3D view of the offending itself”.

“With restorative justice, you are sitting down with the victim, and you really are being held accountable for what you’ve done,” he said.

“The accountability is an important step in acknowledging the harm of your actions. It’s a very, very powerful experience.”

Ultimately, he said there was a need to give inmates “another way to define themselves”.

“For some of them, they’re unfamiliar with anything else,” he said.

“If you’ve spent your whole life in the fire, the frypan doesn’t seem daunting. For someone who knows no other way, there’s no deterrent.

“For me, [jail] is a massive deterrent now because I’d lose everything that I’ve got.”

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Fleury is now working in the legal and justice sector and studies legal services and liberal arts at university.

“Life has just done a complete 180 for me,” he said.

“Honestly, I’ve got to pinch myself sometimes. I can’t believe how life has changed.

“It all comes down to how I was given a chance with a different approach.”

The first phase of the JRI’s project saw seven people with lived experience of incarceration in the ACT/Queanbeyan region undertake professional development in storytelling, public speaking, political advocacy and media engagement.

The group, which graduated earlier this month, will be paid to give public speaking engagements and share their experiences with local communities and businesses.

The pilot project will continue with a second training program from August to September this year. Expressions of interest are open; for more information, click here.

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Society has no greater interest than to see young offenders rehabilitate. This guy is to be commended. Massively.

Prioritising punishment is outdated thinking that ignores the scientific evidence that there are much more effective ways of preventing crime. Sadly, many people can’t get past their fixed views and desire for retribution to move towards a better society with less crime. Punishment, revenge and retribution escalates violence and crime. Just look at the middle east for a current example of this. Time to wake up and be smarter, supporting people who are not coping rather than blaming them for the ills of the world.

Well yes, but certain demographics think it’s about punishment when it isn’t.

Like, “capital punishment”, to my eye there are circumstances that make people irredeemable.

Martin Bryant, for instance, yes he could make a small step forward in enlightenment, he will even.

But it is not worth spending the money that could fund 5 PhDs per year for 50 years for that tiny measure of enlightenment, when those doctorates would (if not in quack fields) progress things far away and above what the realisation that “killing people bad” would do.

It’s not “punishment”, it’s resource allocation. Life without the possibility of parole is a terrible sentence both for the person and society.

Similar vein, jail terms aren’t purely punishment, they’re also (and maybe more) about giving peaceable society a respite from the antics of persons without a “get along, go along” moral sense.
Scum, in other words.

Psycho what is the “new age thinking” on the fair and just treatment of pedophiles, murderers and rapists? Shall we put them in wilderness retreats perhaps? Pamper them with gift baskets and taxpayer subsidised meals?

Dunno about blaming people for “the ills if the world”. But damaging other people (i.e. commiting crime against them) — people who may also be “not coping” for various reasons — is not justified on the basis of “not coping”. So it’s fair enough to blame offenders for offending. If you want to see what the end result is of a blanket social-work / defund the police policy, look at the situation in say New York City where woke DA’s give a free pass to even repeat-offender violent crime, on the basis the it’s the perpetrators who are the *real* victims. It’s pretty clear a proportion of offenders do not respond to soft approaches and continue offending. Even if they’re not deterred by prison either, at least they’re off the streets.

Incidental Tourist7:30 pm 17 Apr 24

The history of mankind shows that jails work. Another question is what happens with inmates within jails.

Heywood Smith12:13 pm 19 Apr 24

The assumption that all prisoners can be rehabilitated is the issue. This simply isnt the case, and Hotel Alex Maconochie is like paradise to some of these crims..

“Articles like this further the oft-repeated lie…”
Oft-repeated by whom? Where?
If you can locate any writing here then I will be happy to argue against them for you.

Your KPI for judges will have them choosing one of two strategies within their control to guarantee low recidivism (as defined by JRI above, returning to jail having ever been there before). They could give everyone a life sentence (if there is no release, there is no return), or not send anyone to jail at all (you can’t go back if you’ve never been there). Problem solved. /s

Strange attractors, technically you’re right but it’s a quibble.
Cog has a point, incentivising pathways that lead to low lives having middling lives and thus having a stake in participating in society is something we pay judges enough that it could well be in their remit.

Nobody wants recidivism, any path out is a win tbqhwy.

While criminals are in jail, they’re not out on the street committing crimes against people. El Salvador used to be one of the most dangerous places on the planet, thanks to the gang crime that used to be there, but with the introduction of draconian president Bukele, who threw all the crims into prison, El Salvador is now a much safer place again.

It’s pretty simple when you know how to navigate between when to think of the individual and when to think of society, unlike of this woke, progressive horse shizz that almost always never fails to be upside down.

But so as not to leave the crims all to themselves, as though they’re not people either, I wonder if anyone ever thought of just making prison a better, safer and more rehabilitative place. If nations around the world really wanted to do this, am I to believe they couldn’t do it? And as for the money that this would undoubtedly cost, on top of the loads of money it already does, let’s not be troubled about spending money on worthwhile things when the gangsters in parliament waste insane amounts of it everyday – to say nothing of their contribution to the rise of criminal activity, as the society they direct has gone from better/conservative to worse. Or were crime rates higher when people didn’t do drugs and respected authority etc.?

And now we have to question the validity of prisons because of the governmental and societal retardation!

If people want to fix things, they should never be shy to put aside superficial diagnoses and band-aid fixes, or to roll up their sleeves for the real work that needs doing

As someone who has a son in gaol locally myself and has spent nearly all of his 20’s incarcerated and now into his 30’s. He has no fear of prison. Sometimes when he’s out he misses his mates inside. While he’s in there, he’s drug free, works the little they provide and does some study. A model prisoner as they say. Outside, the pressures of life turns him into a druggo, one of the low life’s you read about and wonder why he’s not in gaol. He’s one of 5 children, the only one who is not a productive normal law abiding citizen. Nature wins over nurture.

People excited by Singapore might like to check their near-doubling of crime rates in an expanding trend over the last five years during which time population expanded by only about 4%.

Australia’s only significant expansion by population is in cyber-crime. General crime rates are in decline.

Many crimes in Australia went unreported.

Gosh. Have another straw.

Billions of dollars are poured into mental health, rehabilitation services every year yet we still get the Alex Ophels and Joel Cauchis. We have record levels of DV and violence against women in society. Perhaps the soft touch just isn’t working. If Joel was in an institution wearing a straight jacket to prevent harm to himself and others one wonders if Bondi could have been prevented. Maybe our forebears got things right by letting these people rot in jail.

Meanwhile the murderers of the international student in 2011 are already out of jail and committing crimes. I’m sure they are remorseful and are respectable members of society now!

Sam Oak, how will you ensure the right people are locked up?

Byline, cast a wider net. Decrease the legal age of criminal responsibility, mandate longer jail terms and parole requirements. These people have been known to police for years. If there was a requirement for Joel to attend regular medical consultations do you think he would have stopped medication and disappeared out of sight for so long? The warning signs were there, we just chose to prioritise individual privacy and freedoms over collective safety. Watch the politicians throw their hands up and say nothing could have been done. Really? Terrorist activity in Sydney, gang violence in Melbourne. Nothing can be done!

More punishment when punishment alone is known to be inadequate? Enhanced social control with compulsory medication? Is China your model? Huxley’s “Brave New World”?

Reading Cauchi’s published history I am sure many can think of “if only” potentially critical interventions. I’m in favour, hope, of doing more too, but it isn’t easy and it costs money for the resources.

Jayke makes the point above, pithily stated by Tk below: Having something to lose. That entails a cost in social support, not grinding people down, though nothing will work for all people and ages.

Sam Oak, that is just crazy thinking! You can’t lock people up because you think that they might commit a crime sometime in the future, or because they have mental health problems. If we did that, a very large proportion of the population would be in gaol at some time in their lives without ever having committed a crime. Also, the majority of people who commit crimes do not have diagnosed mental health problems. Those with mental health problems are more often the victims of crime.

Joel Cauchi had never committed a criminal act so why would anyone lock him up? A lot of people who commit violent crimes have never broken the law before and were not expected to do so. Are you just going to guess who those people are so you can lock them up? yeah right.

As for the spending on mental health, the funding is not enough to deal with the mildest mental health problems and if it were we might be able to prevent the major ones.

I’m not suggesting locking people up in advance before they commit a crime. I’m suggesting if you are diagnosed with a mental disorder such as schizophrenia then make it a legal requirement to attend regular medical consultations. If Joel hadn’t gone off meds and stopped seeing the doctor I’m pretty sure this never would have happened.

If only it was that easy Sam Oak! People with mental illness are hard to pin down, they are unpredictable and itinerant. If only we could get into their heads to try and understand them and make life just a little bit better for them

Jack, am I crazy or do I feel they’d be easy to pin down? In order to receive a Centrelink payment mandate that they have a mental assessment. Have police patrol the soup kitchens and remove the homeless off the streets. Have a zero tolerance policy against drug possession.

Sam show us 1 example where a zero tolerance against drugs has worked – apart maybe from North Korea.

Enders Cramfolst12:04 am 17 Apr 24

There is not a lot of crime in Singapore.

I wonder what methods they have used to deter people from committing crimes?

Maybe we should look at their methods. They obviously work.

Maybe we should look at the differences between the societies, respect for rule of law, and police success rates at finding and prosecuting based on social cohesion.

Yeah, but they do run like hell away from the police.

And few people change whatever you may try.

I accept your view of yourself but to consider other people, you are defining “few” as about 60% which is a somewhat uncommon use of the term.

I never referred to the 60% you think it was, and it certainly seems you yourself is included.

That’s an incoherent display of incomprehension.

Possibly the methodology is flawed.

True the possibility of jail had not deterred those who still committed the crime and ended up in jail. That seems to not really be a representative sample of our potential criminals.

Unless we also somehow survey people who have thought about crimes but not done so because of the possibility of jail, aren’t we just looking at anecdotes not evidence?

No, not really. Deterrence is a component of sentencing or other forms of control, but not what makes a society work, and safer, as you can see with the briefest glance through a history of punishment.

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