28 January 2011

With our expensive prisoners it's lucky we don't convict many

| johnboy
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Two stories from the ABC dovetail nicely.

The first is that our prisoners are the most expensive in the country:

The annual Report on Government Services has found each prisoner is costing the Territory more than $600 per day.

Consistent with those expenses, prisoners in the Alexander Maconochie Centre have the highest rates of education, training, and employment.

Prisoners in the ACT also spend more time out of their cells.

The report also found the ACT’s judicial system ranks as the third most expensive per person in the country, with only the Northern Territory and Western Australia paying more.

But the good news is our courts don’t like finding people guilty:

The ABS has compared data from the courts in each state and territory for the last financial year.

It shows the ACT had the lowest percentage of defendants proven guilty, at just 65 per cent.

That is well below the national average of nearly 90 per cent.

That is largely due to the fact one in five cases were withdrawn by the Department of Public Prosecutions during proceedings, nearly three times more often than the national average.

So it all works out in the end?

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What a disgrace! These criminals should be doing it hard, I mean the repeat offenders or violent crims and murderers, they should be earning their keep, especially the one’s who have no chance of release or doing years in prison, if that’s possible in Canberra.

Diggety have a read of this; http://www.courts.act.gov.au/supreme/search/sentences.asp?textonly=no

It doesn’t give stats but it does show just how lenient the courts are.

Pommy bastard1:03 pm 30 Jan 11

How many old age pensioners could you feed and house for $600 a day? I’ve lost faith in our societies ability to have any sense of right. For god’s sake how dumb are we to tolerate this?

Mental Health Worker10:28 am 30 Jan 11

sorry about the typos – I thought I’d caught them all.


Mental Health Worker10:27 am 30 Jan 11

People performing Community Service ordered by the courts, or Periodic (weekend) Detention, still do pick up rubbish, assist community organisations etc.

People sent to prison often aren’t suitable to then allow out onto the streets, so you’d have to decide whether you want them in prison or not.

Costs of imprisonment are almost entirely staff costs and Economics 101 (which I never studied, so I could be wrong) would tell you that large scale brings economies, so the opposite also holds true – small prisons (and AMC is a small prison, and ACT a small jurisdiction) will always be more expensive per prisoner than large ones. To reduce costs you’d have to reduce staffing, and then there’d be more assaults, escapes, drugs entering etc.

The ABS report does include some stats on sentencing. Instead of relying on media articles (because the media are always objective and acccurate?) go to the source http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4513.0/ The statistics will take a bit of understanding. As someone said, comparisons are difficult, partly because the ACT has three levels of court (Childrens, Magistrates and Supreme) whereas most larger jurisdictions have four (add in District or County). This means some of the offences processed in ACT’s Magistrates’ Court would be processed in other jusidictions’ District/County Court, and would be counted in the “Higher Courts” section of the report. Also ACT’s Children’s Court deals with people up to age 17, whereas it is 16 in some other places, so there the 17yo defendendants go to Magistrates Court, also slightly affecting comparisons.

As an example, the report quotes sentencing rates in Magistrates Court for Robbery and Extortion, which is pretty silly as you would expect most of these to go to District or Supreme Court.

The best comparison would be to add up the figures across all courts for each State/Territory, and work out the percentages yourself. This often isn’t easy to do, but is usually possible. Try it for adult courts first, I don’t think the age difference for Childrens Courts will make a huge difference.

Sentence LENGTHS probably aren’t available yet, because this publication is an evolving document. I’m sure they’ll become available in the future as the ABS get their heads around. Just a few years ago none of this information on courts was available at all, so congrats to the ABS for their great work.


I absolutely agree that these prisoners should be working whilst incarcerated. They could make a small wage, with half of it going towards their living expenses. Or, as wildturkeycanoe said, perform council and community services.

Didn’t we used to have prisoners picking up garbage on the side of the highways around here? What ever happened to that? Did someone decide that the ‘chain-gang’ method was inhumane? The AMC certainly sounds more and more like a resort, than a prison (I know, I know “rehabilitation centre”), these days.

wildturkeycanoe1:57 pm 28 Jan 11

+1 to futto, great combination of two articles. If they kept them indoors more often, they wouldn’t need so much expensive “monitoring”. Exactly what kind of employment do these inmates have. Metalwork [making weapons of minor destruction and implements for self/else injection], woodwork [would if they wanted to, but won’t because crime is easier], social sciences [if the inside provides this much care and attentiveness, why would I want to go back out there?]. Well, you can guess I haven’t been there so am using the cliche’s of the general population but you get my drift. Why spend more on the criminals than the victims or less fortunate? $600/day for me would be a wonderfully pleasant release from the burden of “normal life”. Make ’em pay for their keep, there’s plenty of community services out there that are screaming for labor.

It would be nice to see some data on sentencing too. I Imagine this would be a little harder to make a proper comparison however.

Free range and certified organic prisoners are always more expensive but they are so much more tasty.

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