Two months ago, NSW Attorney General Greg Smith promised to keep 14 high risk violent offenders behind bars beyond their sentences. Today, The Daily Telegraph revealed that half of them have already been released.

Is locking this guy up forever the answer? Pic: Brad Hunter

Announcements like this may grab headlines (and did) and evoke emphatic nods from the public, but locking away inmates indefinitely is not based on any sense. Just speak to anyone who spends their days and nights helping a sex offender find a place to live and a job.

Longer sentences are a proven vote winner, but they do not address the key issue of what to do with ex-prisoners. If Corrective Services NSW and similar departments in other states were really interested in reducing re-offending, they would spend more time and resources on rehabilitation and reintegration policies.

Authorities need to collaborate with NGOs and community workers, who have worked in this area for the last two to three decades. That would at least give a chance of a normal, productive life to the thousands of Australians released each year.

Almost all offenders will get out of jail eventually and the community will need to deal with them as potentially functioning members of society. They don’t have to be your best friend. But keeping people behind bars is not a deterrent for re-offending. In fact, the current trend shows us that the longer people stay in jail, the more likely they are to commit another crime.

NGOs keep harping on about the fact that services like counselling, mentoring and social support networks are the answer. Not more prison cells. And when they come out of jail, it doesn’t help to have authorities ready to breach them on small parole infractions.

Community groups may not have the cash flow, the flash buildings or government land, but they have the hands-on experience. They have the ideas – tried and tested. And they keep spelling out the answer to transitioning ex-convicts. It lies in long-term community mentoring and social support within the neighbourhood.

Resist the temptation to clump them together in a half-way house where they all become chummy. Disperse them. But with support.

There are no simple solutions here. The majority of criminals are fashioned from long, ugly histories and their situations are complex. Ultimately, reintegration takes time, care and patience.

The NSW attorney general has today been pulled up for not keeping his promise, but his promise of longer sentences was flawed in the first place.

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    • AdamC says:

      12:20pm | 27/11/12

      “But keeping people behind bars is not a deterrent for re-offending. In fact, the current trend shows us that the longer people stay in jail, the more likely they are to commit another crime.”

      Does this uncited research of yours control for the obvious fact that offenders who receive longer sentences are likely to be more serious criminals with more priors to start with? They would therefore be more likely to reoffend once released no matter what their sentence. Just a thought.

      I do not have any problem with governments putting more resources and effort into reintegrating criminals into decent society. However, I cannot see why that prevents us from locking scumbags up for a long time. Which we should.

      Question, how can a politician order that a prisoner who has served his stentence be kept in prison? Surely there must be more to it than that?

    • Bob says:

      01:17pm | 27/11/12

      They can turn up to parole hearings and make personal recommendations, I suppose. When they say ‘beyond their sentences’ they aren’t talking about the head sentence, just the non-parole period.

      So you’ll get, say, 10 for non-parole with a head sentence of 15 years. At 10 you can make a parole application, if accepted you are on parole and any re-offending, or violation of parole conditions, nets you the remainder of that head sentence.

      On the subject of deterrence, though, the likelihood of being punished (in whatever form) for omitting an offence has always had a greater deterrent effect than the severity of punishment.

      Ultimately, your ‘minority report’ scenario (whereby no offence goes undetected) holds the greatest possible deterrent to crime, severity of sentencing is either an estimation of how long a person will take to be rehabilitated, a level of the need for societal retribution or, in extreme cases, the need to remove a person from society due to the danger that they pose towards the community.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:35pm | 27/11/12

      “Does this uncited research of yours control for the obvious fact that offenders who receive longer sentences are likely to be more serious criminals with more priors to start with?”

      Not necessarily.  Firstly, when there’s community pressure, you occasionally have this judge-led process which in WA is known by the deceptively passive title of “firming up”.  i.e. If an offence is prevalent, it’ll generally get harder sentences for deterrent purposes.  Armed robbery had this treatment in WA about 10 years ago, and drug dealing of various substances has, too.

      Secondly, the law (and most bureaus of criminology—i.e. the closest we have to scientists studying the issue)—understands that the punishment a prison sentence amounts to in reality increases exponentially the longer it runs.

      That is: when you consider the punishment of the sentence, a ten year sentence for a crime is not double the punishment of a five year sentence.  It’s more like triple or quadruple the punishment of the five year crime when you evaluate how much damage you do to the person serving the term, and in particular the prospect of that person being institutionalised.

      I’d thought the latter in particular was a Shawshank Redemption fiction until I saw it for myself.  Given sufficient time in the system, some people actually will come to rely on it as a residence or indeed the only place they can function inside.

      That is part of the reason sentences tend to look soft or tend towards the lower end of the range - because judges are acutely aware from decades of research exactly how much damage they can do and how large a long prison term figures in a person’s likelihood of reoffending.  It is the most awful job in the world, because on one hand you have to provide the revenge element of sentencing while somehow arriving at a sentence that does not destroy the offender - because that is not what sentencing is about.  The longer the sentence, the more likely the punishment imposed by the sentence becomes disproportionate to the crime committed.

      People do not realise, because the media doesn’t tell you, exactly what it means to serve five years in prison, what it means to wind up in a regimented, brutal environment for longer than most of us were in high school.  A prison term by itself is going to guarantee you will never work in a position of trust again.  It also guarantees, depending on the length, that you will work in nothing but unskilled labouring jobs ever again - and the prison term will also cut down your working life in those jobs, too.  A long prison term, in effect, often guarantees the person will be reliant on the community for their support for much of the rest of their life anyway—even once they’re out of prison.

      I am not saying there should not be punishment or that there should not be prison terms of an appropriate length, but people are horribly underinformed on exactly what constitutes “appropriate” as judges and criminologists’ long experience tells us.

      I don’t have the links to back it at this point.  Suffice to say my experience in a “past life” got me a pretty good grounding on this one.  But for the legal support at least, look up the doctrine of proportionality on Austlii in reference to criminal sentencing, or look into any Institute of Criminology’s websites for more edification on these subjects.

    • acotrel says:

      01:53pm | 27/11/12

      ‘Longer sentences are a proven vote winner’

      The ‘law & order card’  is a tactic much used by the conservatives, and is always supported by the Murdoch Press. It often runs stories complaining that prisoners live in luxury. It is all part of the game - ’ the system runs on bullshit’ !

    • AJ in Perth says:

      02:24pm | 27/11/12

      St. Michael

      yet all this could have been prevented by not committing a crime in the first place?

      and personally I actually agree with “firming up”, sounds effective

    • St. Michael says:

      02:36pm | 27/11/12

      “St. Michael

      yet all this could have been prevented by not committing a crime in the first place?”

      Straw man.  We’re talking about what you do with people who wind up in the justice system, not those who stay out of it.

    • Kika says:

      03:06pm | 27/11/12

      AdamC - She doesn’t need to cite her research. There’s plenty of it out there. Recidivism is very high amongst those who become institutionalised to prison life. Prison often gives them the things in like they lack - authority, structure, brotherhood, steady work and responsibility… I know this because I studied Criminology. Prisons were designed to first be a rehabilitation centre. When that quickly proved to have failed it then become used as a deterrent device for those in the community into wanting to commit crime.

      As they say, once you’ve been in there’s nothing to fear about going to jail anymore.

    • Zed says:

      03:56pm | 27/11/12

      Acotrel - the ALP don’t like longer sentences because a lot of their members and other associates end up in jail.

    • Ben says:

      04:47pm | 27/11/12


      >I know this because I studied Criminology

      Oh God…

    • acotrel says:

      05:47pm | 27/11/12

      What sort of utopia is it when those who fall through the cracks end up in jail ?  When the attitudes are that if I can make it (with the support of Daddy) anyone can do it ? So that anybody who is rich lives in a security compound ?  Great stuff - apartheidt here we come ! This callous fascist shit wears a bit thin !

    • acotrel says:

      05:50pm | 27/11/12

      Kennett closed the mental hospitals in Victoria and sold off the assets.  Where are the psychotic patients now ?

    • acotrel says:

      05:57pm | 27/11/12

      ‘Question, how can a politician order that a prisoner who has served his stentence be kept in prison? Surely there must be more to it than that?’
      Access to the courts through a writ of habeas corpus to be shown just cause for imprisonment, is a basic human right in all western democracies.  If John Howard can deny asylum seekers on Nauru that right, then there is no problem extending jail terms of ordinary prisoners beyond their legal sentence !

    • Hammy says:

      12:27pm | 27/11/12

      Keeping them in jail reduces the number of victims though.

    • Austin 3:16 says:

      01:05pm | 27/11/12

      Um increased chance of re-offending reduces the number of victims ?

      Want to explain how that works ?

    • St. Michael says:

      01:14pm | 27/11/12

      If you keep them in jail without trying to reintegrate them into society or rehabilitate them, it only reduces the number of victims right now.  In fact it increases the number of victims when they’re let out, because an unrehabilitated offender is going to do worse than a rehabilitated one, and usually in a shorter period of time.  You are simply outsourcing your victimhood to someone else a few years down the line.

      Now, I realise it’s standard Baby Boomer policy to kick the problems they had custody over—economic, social, environmental—down the road to be paid for by their kids, but do you think you could maybe stop at the policy applying to criminals too?

    • Loxy says:

      01:18pm | 27/11/12

      My thoughts exactly Hammy! Innocent people should always come before criminals – especially in the case of paedophiles which there is no known cure and almost all of them re-offend again and again.

    • iansand says:

      01:19pm | 27/11/12

      Finding a way to stop re-offending protects even more victims.

    • Hammy says:

      01:34pm | 27/11/12

      Yes Austin and St Michael, it’s a quaint idea, don’t let REPEAT offenders out to rape or murder your child.  They have been given all the chances they deserve by the time they become ‘high risk violent offenders’.

      I know that pains your bleeding heart, but only when it’s your four year old daughter (or son) will you to begin to think differently.

    • Little Bill says:

      01:47pm | 27/11/12

      @loxy innocent? Innocent of what!? Think about it.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:18pm | 27/11/12

      “Yes Austin and St Michael, it’s a quaint idea, don’t let REPEAT offenders out to rape or murder your child.”

      You didn’t say repeat offenders, darling.  You launched out on all of them.  Not my problem if your logic doesn’t even track to you.

    • PJ says:

      02:18pm | 27/11/12

      Short to no jail terms helps them re-offend:

      From Justice - The UK Governments Crime Statistics Site:

      Between January and December 2010, around 650,000 offenders were cautioned, convicted (excluding immediate custodial sentences) or released from custody. Around 170,000 of these offenders committed a proven re-offence within a year. This gives a one year proven re-offending rate of 26.7 per cent

      These re-offenders committed an average of 2.87 re-offences each. In total, this represents around 500,000 re-offences of which 81.0 per cent were committed by adults and 19.0 per cent were committed by juveniles.

      55.3 per cent (around 280,000) were committed by re-offenders with 11 or more previous offences
      0.7 per cent (around 3,300) were serious violent/sexual proven re-offences
      5.2 per cent (around 26,000) were committed by re-offenders on the Prolific and other Priority Offender Programme (PPO).

      Re-offending after light sentences is a proven fact.

      To solve over-crowding and help the Government save a buck, an early release scheme was introduced in the UK.

      Criminals released committed eight more offences within days of the controversial scheme being introduced, it has been revealed.

      Basically the Government must build more prisons to punish the crime and not try to re-dress it’s deficits by putting the General Public at risk.

      Read more:

    • St. Michael says:

      02:41pm | 27/11/12

      “650,000 offenders were cautioned, convicted (excluding immediate custodial sentences) or released from custody. Around 170,000 of these offenders committed a proven re-offence within a year.”

      Um, your own numbers therefore demonstrate that only 26% of people dealt with lightly in this way reoffended.  175,000 of 650,000 is about 26%, just over 1 in every 4.

      That would mean close to three out of four people did not reoffend having been given a light sentence.

      I’d call a 74% rate of rehabilitation pretty impressive, wouldn’t you?

    • Hammy says:

      03:01pm | 27/11/12

      St Michael,

      High risk violent offenders are rarely first time offenders.  Even if they were first time offenders…the ‘high risk’ and ‘violent’ parts tend to indicate they shouldn’t be in society no matter how much you want to hug them and rub up against them.

    • St. Michael says:

      03:31pm | 27/11/12

      “High risk violent offenders are rarely first time offenders.”

      Answer my question.  Is 3 out of 4 an impressive rehabilitation rate or what, based on your own foreign and self-serving statistics that you yourself cited?

      Ad hominem is intellectually dishonest debating.  Don’t do it.

    • Don says:

      03:48pm | 27/11/12

      Ummm Hammy that was only after a year. I have little doubt that as you increase the time line, it goes up. What time frame would you find acceptable for reoffending? Mine goes longer than a year - say the rest of their lives? Is that acceptable?

    • Don says:

      03:50pm | 27/11/12

      Bugger - I meant to direct my last comment to St Michael. Sorry Hammy.

    • Hammy says:

      04:21pm | 27/11/12

      St Michael,

      a) I didn’t post the figures.
      b) I never agreed to the substance of the figures
      c) When you asked a question about the figures, one would think you were addressing the person who posted them.

      “Ad hominem is intellectually dishonest debating.  Don’t do it.”

      Perhaps you should follow your own advice.

    • St. Michael says:

      05:07pm | 27/11/12

      @ Don: either way, that’s argumentum ad ignoranem, also known as arguing from ignorance, also known as an intellectually dishonest debating tactic.

      As it is, I’d guess from the very careful selection of stats to try and beat up the seriousness of the issue, the recidivism rates over longer periods drop off significantly.

    • Kev says:

      12:33pm | 27/11/12

      Spot on. The reality is that most criminals will get out of jail at some stage whether it’s in 6 months or in 20 years. Sooner or later they will have to reintegrate with society and the best way to stop a lot of them re-offending is to give them skills that allow them to contribute to society. Taking the head in the sand lock them up and throw away the key will not work.

    • Tory Cowlick says:

      12:34pm | 27/11/12

      Yeah but it makes me feel like a big man being able to shaft the sort of people who beat me up at school.

    • Baloo says:

      02:09pm | 27/11/12

      Maybe I’m reading your comment wrong, but are you calling people who aren’t criminals.. cowards?

    • what about us says:

      12:36pm | 27/11/12

      All good Deborah, however you may have missed the news over the last 2 months, where 2 innocent Melbourne women were murdered by untreatable psychopaths LET OUT TOO EARLY, despite histories of violence.  Society might accept your viewpoint if parole provisions were removed and criminals actually did their as-sentenced time.  I agree with supporting ex-cons who have served their debt to us in full.
      Have a chat to the families of these murdered women next time youre in town.  Bring along the Parole Board with you, they can explain themselves.

    • Tony of Poorakistan says:

      01:05pm | 27/11/12

      Until such time as the Parole Boards learn to tell the difference between their arses and their elbows, I say let’s just build bigger prisons. I don’t give a bugger what it costs -it couldn’t be as much as Julia’s Pink Batt Fiasco or her famous BER rorts- just do it. lock them away until they need to be buried.

    • Hammy says:

      01:08pm | 27/11/12

      Lefties don’t care about victims.

    • Bear says:

      01:42pm | 27/11/12

      @hammy as opposed to righties who have no care of anyone but self. Seeing as we’re making false generalizations…

    • Kipling says:

      04:11pm | 27/11/12

      “murdered by untreatable psychopaths “

      So it would seem that psychosis is actually a medical complaint, yet, apparently prison is the appropriate place for them….

      In short, using prisons to provide beds for people with mental illness neither addresses criminality, mental health provision short falls or reduces recidivism. All it does is put sick people behind bars alongside real criminals.

      As tough as that might be for the “families” you speak of, the existing system only serves to make more of those families….

    • Bane says:

      12:44pm | 27/11/12

      Ok forget longer sentences. How about permanent jail sentences?
      Why fuss about the human rights of those that willfilly take human lives?

      Or if you need to reintegrate them, make sure all in the community know who they really are so everyone can help them adjust.
      This policy will be a sure fire vote winner and will save lives.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:42pm | 27/11/12

      “Why fuss about the human rights of those that willfilly take human lives?”

      Because if you would teach others to revere human life, you must first revere it yourself.

    • Bane says:

      03:39pm | 27/11/12

      There were calls on this site last week that drunken racist pigs were sub-human. Tongue in check I know by the author but the call well well and truly echoed.
      What would you call murdering rapists? And I’m not suggesting capital punishment either, those days are well behind in our society.
      I’m saying the rights of the law abiding and victims must take a huge preferrence over the rights of offenders. The need to protect the community from known offenders must be priority. Their rehabilitation is an optimistic second.

    • St. Michael says:

      05:13pm | 27/11/12

      “I’m saying the rights of the law abiding and victims must take a huge preferrence over the rights of offenders. The need to protect the community from known offenders must be priority. Their rehabilitation is an optimistic second.”

      First, the rights of law abiding people and victims do take preference over the rights of offenders.  No law abiding person or victim alike is ever going to be deprived of his liberty by force of law, called only by his surname or a number, kept in solitary confinement, or deprived of most human contact with the outside world.  Every offender who goes to jail knows those deprivations—in frequently overcrowded conditions, no less.

      Second, protection of the community and rehabilitation generally intersect.  If you can rehabilitate successfully, you protect the community because the person does not offend again.  But we don’t spend anywhere near as much on proper rehabilitative services as we do prison bars and prison guards.

    • Borderer says:

      12:44pm | 27/11/12

      Not to rain in your logic but the longer people are put in jail, the more serious their offences. Serious offenders also on average are serial offenders so you’re basing your stats on a disproportionatly hardened criminal element, thus your results are hardly surprising.

    • Hammy says:

      01:19pm | 27/11/12


      They’ve already been given a dozen chances.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:39pm | 27/11/12

      It’s a bit more chicken-and-egg than that.  That hardcore offender often ends up in the same alcohol and drug-soaked environment that he left when he first went to prison.  And community based rehabilitation programs are woefully underresourced and understaffed.  Saying “they’ve already been given a dozen chances” if your chance on each let-out was basically’s Buckley’s.

    • Borderer says:

      02:32pm | 27/11/12

      St. Michael
      You’re also looking at the issue too far down the track, criminals should be given options for punishment in the early stages of their offending. Caught stealing a car, 1000 hours of community service (no conviction recorded) or 1 year in jail without early release, failure to perform the service and off to jail. Community service should only be done on weekends, they need to be encouraged to find normal work and the jail option should be quite severe so that the offender will always consider it a bad alternative. Petty offences should have harsh fines, fines should be able to be garnished from wages as well, options to work off fines with community service should be made available, failure to perform it and the fine is reinstated.
      When I say community service, I mean collect rubbish, clean graffiti, feed the homeless that sort of thing that gives back to the people you’ve committed the crime against.

    • St. Michael says:

      02:49pm | 27/11/12

      @ Borderer: um, most Children’s Courts in the States and Territories already do that and much better.  Imprisonment is generally seen, if not set down in Childrens’ Sentencing legislation as the last resort.  And their record is impressive as they stand: of the 100% that come before the courts, about 80% only ever come into the court once.  The 20% that remain usually require more intervention from a DCS point of view, but as I’ve said before, we’ve emasculated most of our DCS services nationwide just to keep building those jails and to pay for the longer prison sentences.

    • Hammy says:

      02:50pm | 27/11/12

      St. Michael,

      Repeat offenders grow up in an environment.  They have no intention of placing the effort into improving their live or their environment themselves.  They have no desire to improve.  The support is already there, they don’t want to do what others want them to do.  This is where personal responsibility must come to account.  They would rather re-offend because that’s what they want to do or that’s the easy way out.  There’s only one person to blame for this.

    • Borderer says:

      03:14pm | 27/11/12

      St Michael - I was referring to adults, there is little difference in my eyes between juvenille offenders and many young adults or first time offenders. I believe in the option of having offenders choose the penalty they receive, it means they own it then rather than be resigned to carrying out their sentence. I believe service sentences should be long and drum home the punishment by taking away free time (hence on weekends). I also believe fines should be harsher as well, a $200 fine doesn’t mean that much, no boozy weekend this week but $5000 might sting more. Keeping otherwise productive people out of jail only benefits society, however if you’re determined to be a criminal and continue to offend then there is a prison cell and a long sentence waiting for you. It’s not that I encourage harsher sentencing, just that you should give people an option, if they choose not to embrace it, then you hit them with a very big stick.

    • Tator says:

      03:25pm | 27/11/12

      St Michael,
      You will actually find that most people in gaol have extensive histories of offending prior to their first custodial sentence with most having long juvenile records as well.  The way the Criminal Justice system works is in an incremental scale of sanctions, from Convicted without penalty/Found guilty without conviction to Gaol at the opposite ends of severity.  There are very few first time offenders in gaol as most first time offenders receive sanctions at the lower end of the scale starting with Good behaviour bonds, community service, fines, suspended gaol sentences and finally gaol itself.
      Now what not has been said is the breakdown of what sort of offenders reoffend more after being released.  The AIC states that in a study by Ross and Guarnieri (1996) which examined reconviction rates of released prisoners in Victoria. They found that they were higher for property and assault offenders (81% and 77% respectively) than for sex and homicide offenders (51% and 46% respectively).  Now considering that property offences and assault offences are less likely to receive extended gaol sentences and thus have less disincentive to reoffend compared to those with sex offences or homicide offences where the sentencing is generally for longer periods (here in SA, murder has a mandatory life sentence for the head sentence and only the non parole period is discretionary for the judge) (NSW’s figures show median sentences for break and enter/assaults/aoabh/robbery/minor drug dealing to be between 2 and 5 years whilst sexual offences have a median sentence of 6 years and murder 18 years)
      These statistics sort of throw doubt on Deborah’s premise that longer gaol sentences cause recidivism when it appears that the shorter ones promote it even more.  What is more obvious is stats from NSW showing that 69% of people convicted of serious criminal offences end up in gaol with 31% of people given lesser sanctions.  These offences do not include any frauds/larcencies/minor traffic or common assaults.  data here -

    • subotic says:

      12:44pm | 27/11/12

      There are no simple solutions here.

      Yes there is - Kill them. No chance of a “repeat offender” in that option, is there?

    • Borderer says:

      01:26pm | 27/11/12

      Not unless you eat them as well….

    • subotic says:

      03:13pm | 27/11/12

      Prof. Hubert J. Farnsworth: Now, be careful, Fry. And if you kill anyone, make sure to eat their heart to gain their courage. Their rich, tasty courage.

    • lostinperth says:

      12:46pm | 27/11/12

      Good article.

      Sadly the rehabilitation side of prison has been the area where costs have been most savagely cut and services reduced. The result is you have people who are released from jail who have done little or no rehabilitation, often are barely literate and have no accomodation, employment or support plans.

      I find it amazing that the governments can find $100,000 a year to lock one person up and seem happy to have recidivism rates of up to 60%m but can’t find the same amount to provide rehabilitation and support that could dozens out of jail.

      It is a classic case of populist policies and pandering to the shock jocks and media in being “tough on crime” whilst totally ignoring the solutions to the problem

    • Hammy says:

      01:21pm | 27/11/12

      Let them move into your house then.

    • fairsfair says:

      12:47pm | 27/11/12

      “but locking away inmates indefinitely is not based on any sense”

      I thought it was to protect the unassuming public? Particularly sexual deviants where it is clear that there is no known rehabilitation measure. This socially defined crime is commited as a result of an impulse that the purpetrator struggles to control. In fact if you look into it, they manage to control it well, they just fail and the result of those failings is a crime. In fact this represents one of the biggest challenges I regularly confront in public debate on the topic of paedophelia. The people that claim rehabilitation is an option and that known child sex offenders should be given a second chance are generally the same people who think that homosexuality can not be “trained” out of people. They’ll stand up for the rights of the criminal but decry the church’s stance on gay rights - it doesn’t make sense to me.

      I had a lecturer at university once tell me corrective services is an industy like any other. Why would they want to deter their customers from repeat patronage? Especially in systems like privatised Victoria. To a certain degree people have a predisposition to commit crimes. Be it demographic, mental state, sexuaity etc etc. It is a pretty defined minority that represent the majority.

      I don’t think any measure will work until we take this back to basics. What can be rehabilitated, what can’t be? What purpose does jail serve - protection (of the general public) or punishment (for the criminal).

      I agree Deborah - there are no simple solutions. Putting the cart before the horse is not any benefit though.

      Check this judgement and sentencing out too - it actually makes me feel ill.
      The whole system is flawed. Since when does the ease in which a murderer got along with his victim hold any bearing on how he is sentenced? For me the judge essentially said “Yes you killed him, but he was an arsehole and eveyone thought that so we’ll let that slide….”

    • andye says:

      02:41pm | 27/11/12

      @fairsfair - Reading your link, you neglect to mention that mental illness was part of the reason for the 8 year sentence.

    • fairsfair says:

      03:10pm | 27/11/12

      That doesn’t change my opinion though Andye - he is eligible for parole after three years of that 8 year sentence and again, is jail to protect the wider public (from a mentally ill individual who killed an elderly man with dementia because he said nasty words to him) or a punishment for that person? That sentence certainly is not an adequate punishment, nor is it seeking to protect the public because after he is released he will likely remain a mentally ill person capable of killing someone who says nasty things. What do we do with this person? I certainly don’t think letting him return to society after three years is acceptable. The judge makes no comment (not even in his full judgement) about non-custodial treatments for the “mental illness” nor does he define what it actually is (they illude to him being bullied by the man he killed but that is purely speculative and as the other party is now dead, can’t really defend those claims) - so as far as I am concerned that is superfluous information in this instance.

      But that is what I am really getting at. We can’t agree on how to treat convicted criminals (I don’t believe genuine mental illness is an excuse (hello Matthew Newton)) and whilst traditional custodial sentencing in the form of jailing may not always be appropriate course of action - removing people who present a danger to the public into an apropriate institution needs to take place.

      We should not feel guilty as a society for stamping “never to be released” onto the forehead of the likes of Dennis Ferguson. Luckily for Anna Bligh though, he moved to NSW - no longer her problem. We should not feel guilty as a society for jailing a mentally ill person. Regardless of their mental condition they present a risk to members of the public and I personally have a higher degree of concern for their potential victims then their personal and immediate civil liberties.

    • TheRealDave says:

      12:47pm | 27/11/12

      I thought that this is what ‘Rehabilitiation’ was for??

      Unless you are here saying publicly that ‘Rehabilitation’ doesn’t work??

      If so, excellent, lets stop wasting those millions upon millions of tax payer dollars and just get back to good old fashioned punsihment. I’m good with that.

    • Esteban says:

      12:49pm | 27/11/12

      While sex offenders are locked up they are not sex offending.

    • Reschs Monkey says:

      01:28pm | 27/11/12

      Only physical or chemical castration will permanently stop sex offenders from continuing to commit sexual offenses.

    • Don says:

      12:53pm | 27/11/12

      “Just speak to anyone who spends their days and nights helping a sex offender find a place to live and a job.”

      My sympathy chip is all burnt out for people like this. They just need to be aware that their sentence has not ended once they have left prison, it will continue for the rest of their and life and frankly, I am ok with that.

    • Troy Flynn says:

      01:21pm | 27/11/12

      “Just speak to anyone who spends their days and nights helping a sex offender find a place to live and a job”

      I have an idea. How about their job and place to live be one and the same. Pushing up Daisies.

    • St. Michael says:

      01:40pm | 27/11/12

      As I keep telling you, Troy: pity if the guy happens to be innocent.  If he’s dead he can’t clear his name.  Magic DNA does not solve this problem any more than Gary Sinise on CSI does.

    • Don says:

      03:41pm | 27/11/12

      Just to be clear here - I am referring to sex offenders, especially those who have hurt children. They have delivered a life sentence to their victims and in the case of some children, created a terrible legacy of future offenders. Hell on earth indeed.

    • St. Michael says:

      05:09pm | 27/11/12

      @ Don: pity if, as is not an infrequent occurrence particularly in respect of child care centres (look up the McMartin case in the US or the Mr Bubbles case here in Australia) the allegations are entirely false.  I’d call being wrongly marked as a paedophile for your entire life patently unjust, wouldn’t you?

    • Don says:

      05:25pm | 27/11/12

      I agree that the law needs to be calibrated so that guilty people are not falsely convicted. That said there are more than enough examples of dead set absolute guilt ridden scumbags out there.

    • Andrew says:

      06:04pm | 27/11/12

      So what about the victim of the reoffender st michael, how many people are dead of had there lives ruined by reoffenders. A damn site more then innocent people put to death by the government. Innocent people die either way St Michael, something you breeding heart softies dont seem to acknowledge.

    • Markus says:

      01:00pm | 27/11/12

      “But keeping people behind bars is not a deterrent for re-offending.”
      It is actually. So long as they are behind bars, it is physically impossible for them to perform a criminal act on a member of society.

      “In fact, the current trend shows us that the longer people stay in jail, the more likely they are to commit another crime”
      This has to be some lazy average, or a statistic that only includes those who do re-enter society. Those who would serve consecutive life sentences and will see out the remainder of their life in prison would have a 0% chance to commit another crime in society.

      That trend could also not mean what you think it means. You seem to imply that the length of the sentence is a cause of the likelihood to reoffend, but the sentence itself is just indicative of the severity of the original crime and likelihood to re-offend. The crime dictates the sentence, not the other way around.
      A serial rapist’s odds of reoffending are not going to be less based on a prison sentence of 30 days as opposed to 30 years.

    • Tony H says:

      01:10pm | 27/11/12

      Can’t we just execute them? With 7 billion people on the planet now I don’t mind culling a few of the really bad ones, it’s not like the human race would be losing something by their sudden removal from the gene pool.

    • Phil says:

      02:07pm | 27/11/12

      Yeah I’m all for that really.
      Anyone who has taken another life, pedo’s rapists and those with violent histories (attacks on people, animals etc)
      Cull away what is just genetically defective.

      Think of the money saved per head if we just executed, none of this long winded 20 years on death row crap, closed court find out what we need to, give them 30 days to sort out any other “paperwork” and then send them out the back to be dealt with.

    • Criminologist says:

      01:22pm | 27/11/12

      Criminal Justice should be about victims, not criminals.

    • fairsfair says:

      01:35pm | 27/11/12

      Too many Terry O’Gorman’s in this world.

    • subotic says:

      02:07pm | 27/11/12

      You fool Criminologist, if it were Victim Justice then all the ratbags would have been justly executed!

      And the PC Nanny Brigade wouldn’t want that now, would they….

    • Ballerman says:

      02:10pm | 27/11/12

      Criminals and justice are mutually exclusive. There’s no legal requirement for justice. Aca and tt and the like make ppl think otherwise.

    • Ian1 says:

      01:25pm | 27/11/12

      Yeah, harder “to-find-on-the-street” criminals because they are still serving time having already been found guilty.

      Once repeat offence is no longer an issue before the courts, maybe then incarceration time is spot on.  See the issue differently?

    • AJ in Perth says:

      01:43pm | 27/11/12

      Sorry to say it, but you are deluded, seriously.  It’s actually very simple, it’s a little thing called taking responsibility for your actions.  You commit a crime, you go to jail, it is no one else’s fault (parents, alcohol, drugs or whatever), it was you.  Getting out of jail, committing a crime (again), is not the system’s fault, it was you (again).  Honestly, some days it really isn’t that hard to realise why society is going downhill fast.

      And what Don said.

    • andye says:

      02:49pm | 27/11/12

      @AJ in Perth - you can be right all you want. You can be righteous and justified till the cows come home. You can know who to blame. You can also blame them till the cows come home. You can have a huge blame party where you all agree over cocktails that the people committing the crimes are responsible for those crimes. And you would be totally justified in doing so.

      None of this will magically reduce the rate at which criminals re-offend. None of this will actually save a victim.

      For all the talk of “bleeding hearts” on topics like this, I think the conservatives are often the ones with the most emotionally based views. I personally think whatever is shown to be effective should be done, dispassionately.

    • Andrew says:

      06:08pm | 27/11/12

      So you agree andye. kill them or lock them up until death or there so old there not a treat. After all these ways are obviously effective as they cant reoffend why in jail or dead.

    • Ironside says:

      01:44pm | 27/11/12

      There is absolutely a place for more counseling, rehabilitation and reintegration programs for offenders however these should be balanced with a return of the death penalty for proven serious offenses where the guilt is beyond doubt the Ivan Milats of the world for instance.

      Offenders will not change their behavior until they chose to do so. No amount of counseling will influence this process, they have to want to make the change.

      Also this is my third post on this site today, my other two have not been posted, if this one is not, then please i would like an email from the punch team to notify me of why i have been banned from contributing.

    • KimL says:

      02:04pm | 27/11/12

      Letting them out in a short amount of time, for crimes like rape and murder and Pedophilia, just creates more victims. Time for the victims and their families to be considered first. Jail time for serious crime is not long enough. For repeat offenders it should be mandatory life. I would give Pedophiles the same life sentence for their first is time we as a society looked after our most valuable asset..our children

    • Josephine says:

      02:13pm | 27/11/12

      Deborah, your idea didn’t turn out so good for Joanne Wicking, her daughters, Sarah Cafferkey or Jill Meagher. There are probably hundreds of others. Or perhaps you could prove us wrong by taking an ex con that committed similar crimes into your home and let us know how it turns out.

      Petty criminals have a chance of rehabilitation. But when it comes to violent crimes there should be no second chances.

    • OzTrucker says:

      02:39pm | 27/11/12

      We give these parasites chance after chance. We let them willfully roam our streets breaking into houses and businesses, bashing and raping old ladies, murdering innocents and generally preying on everyone and everything.

      When the police catch them some smart arse lawyer get them off or gets them a reduced sentence because they were abused as a child. Or the police get castigated for using force.

      They go to goal and are given better conditions than those in an aged care facility (I wonder what would happen if they served savs and sausage rolls for tea at Silverwater) they get free healthcare and dental get free education three meals a day and a roof over their head every night. Free everything.

      These animals are the worst in our society they have no respect for the law our society or its’ members and they never will have no matter what anyone thinks. Yet there is always some purple haired, government funded social worker and legal aid there to support them.

      I don’t care if a sex offender, robber, rapist or murderer has a nice place to sleep at night or a job. All I care about is if the scum has a chance to hurt another innocent.

      Ten years should mean ten years. Life should mean the only way you leave your tax payer funded accomodation is in a box. No more excuses. No more fifth chances. DO THE CRIME DO THE TIME.

      I would have no problem pulling the trigger, pushing the plunger or flicking the switch personally on a murderer, child molester or rapist.

    • Achmed says:

      02:49pm | 27/11/12

      This PC rubbish about rehabilitation and re-integration, counselling etc is a load of bunk.

      I have worked in prisons for over 30 years.  We are now spending millions upon millions to fill the need of the politically correct bleeding hearts.  And the recidivism rate has not gone down.  I see the same people coming into prison despite all the programs and touchy feely cr-p taxpayers pay millions of dollars for.

      Millions of dollars wasted spending in prison.  When they are released they return to save community, the same problems, the same peer group, etc etc…..nothing has changed.

      Spend the millions on early education and training….once they are coming to prison its too late.  They have had a minimum of 18 years to become the criminal and prisons are supposed to “fix” them…TOO LATE.

    • disappointed says:

      03:42pm | 27/11/12

      I’m not talking about murderers or rapists or people who attack the elderly here. But my son went to prison for drug offences and rightly so….community determined that was his punishment. I have no problem with that decision. When he got to his low to medium risk prison, the drug & alcohol counsellors weren’t available for 6 weeks; the wasn’t allowed to join in several rehabilitation programs relating to his addiction as it was determined his sentence wasn’t long enough for him to participate in those programs. The spaces were reserved for others who’s sentences were longer. The Governor of the prison determined no visitors were allowed to bring in books or magazines on visitors day, they had to be ordered from the local newsagent and delivered to the prisoner on a day allocated by the newsagent, so as visiting day was only on the weekends and the town was about 10 klms away, we couldn’t get to the newsagent to order anything. We had to ring up and quote our credit card to ensure delivery. So, if partners or parents or siblings of prisoners didn’t have that availability, the prisoner missed out. Surely, no one would begrudge a person a book, magazine or newspaper to read. I guess what I’m trying to say is if a prisoner doesn’t get the chance to rehabilitate and is totally powerless and subject to the games the prison officers play…and believe me, they do play them…...and doesn’t have support when they are released, of course they are going to re-offend, partly because they don’t know any different. Spend money on them to help them become worthwhile citizens. So many are victims of poverty &  lack of education….why not implement education programs, i.e. basic school programs for those that need them. Certainly punish the crime….and I can tell you, being locked up & having no rights is a punishment in itself. And don’t believe the media hype about how good the prisoners get it with TV’s, meals etc…....those perceptions are far from reality. But until we as a society look for the cause of why so many re-offend and do something positive about it, it’s not going to go away. And it’s not all men either, a lot of women prisoners are victims themselves, of poverty, domestic violence, of simply being down trodden. I can’t imagine what it must be like to leave prison and have simply no where to go, no food to eat & no prospect of a job. How do they climb the ladder if they’re not shown how?

    • stephen says:

      03:43pm | 27/11/12

      I’d imagine that a torture victim at Gauntanamo, whilst under the screws, would only get to feel better when he was told that the pain would only release when information was forthcoming ; that the pain would continue forcefully and indefinitely, and that to imagine moments free of pain would be enough to force subservience.
      This is a sound psychology I think, and it could be applied to prison inmates, in that no matter how hard or difficult it is in prison, that there, one day, will be a time when it will end, and that up to then, good behaviour will make that moment sooner.
      Once an inmate gets out to society, however, the problems that he/she had before incarceration remains, and that is that most prisoners, but certainly not all by any means, break the law because they want something, whether it be money, a car, a girlfriend, and do not want to work for it.
      (I have a number of colourful relatives, and trust me, that is accurate.)

      Therefore, I think that the benefits of release, the feelings of redemption - in a social sense and not necessarily a religious one -  that one gets when they get out of prison will only properly be effective if the time in prison is severe enough and unpleasant enough that freedom on the streets is emphatically felt, and the criminal goes straight ; if a criminal, generally speaking, and as noted above by Kika, has had a difficult and long history which is the main cause of his misbehaviour, then to change that person, psychologically, would be well nigh impossible.

      Prison time, I’d think, might have to settle it.

    • Leigh says:

      03:43pm | 27/11/12

      Oh, piffle! Most of this countries problems are due to lack of punishment, from childhood to adulthood. So-called long sentences might fail, but only because they are not long enough! Most cons are too stupid to be rehabilitated and, they should therefore, not be let out until they are broken. Then the rest of us will have a chance of living in safety.

    • Kassandra says:

      03:46pm | 27/11/12

      It is a mistake to lump all criminals together and likewise all crime.

      There are big differences between people who commit non-violent and violent crimes, a small proportion of the offender population is responsible for the majority of crime, and the majority of offenders are young males who commit one or only a few crimes. The headline refers to a very small group of highly atypical offenders but then goes on as if all criminals are the same.

      The effect of the criminal justice system on crime rates is controversial but there is evidence from a number of studies that the likelihood of arrest and the likelihood of conviction have substantial effects on rates of non-violent crime but little effect on the rate of violent crime. Length of imprisonment has no apparent effect on crime rates. See for example$file/SarafidisVasilis_slides.pdf

      The problem is what is the alternative to prison? Short sentences supplemented by other measures, non-custodial alternatives or a return to killing, torturing and maiming? There is research to support intensive childhood interventions to try and prevent youngsters becoming criminals but no demonstrated effective alternatives to imprisonment for serious crimes. The very small group of high risk serial violent offenders are the most problematic. At least incarceration keeps them off the streets.

    • Jay2 says:

      04:12pm | 27/11/12

      Violent crimes deserve long sentences in my opinion. It always amazes me that resources and finances are at the centre of conversation in “What’s best for the offender; how to make them whole again; how to integrate them into society; getting that second chance”, yet the victim of such violence doesn’t even enter in to the sub conscious.  I wonder how much angst and resources are poured their way into making them whole again; having a second shot at life and thrive, not merely exist with the emotional/physical scars that they carry. Often the victims and their families,have lives irreversibley damaged by such perpetrators.

      Maybe the advocates of violent or sexually based offenders should spend a few weeks with their victims to develop a more rounded view.

    • Kipling says:

      04:28pm | 27/11/12

      Here’s the thing. The prison system is not nor has it ever been effective for re education, prevention or as a deterrant. Despite any and all asertions denying this the reality is that if the prison system had worked at any level then we would not be needing more prisons. Further, issues about recidivism would not actually exist. The bottom line is the system as it is (or has always been) is a failure. What the prison system does do is provide some degree of revenge, and that shifts depending on an immense range of factors, which, in turn, means that the system is not very reliable or consistent for even providing revenge.

      If revenge is all we wish to achieve I am ok with that, provided we are all willing to acknowledge that this is what it’s all actually about.

      As is evident, the “innocent” are not afforded any more or effective protection either.

      The point to the article though was to specifically look at recidivism. It is a significant issue, also is trans generational crime (not addressed in the articel though).

      Now whilst I do not have links handy, there are massive amounts of research done regarding what actually seems effective. By all means if you are truly interested do some googling - look at parenting programs in prison for example. That’s right parenting programs. Research and longitudinal studies have demonstrated some very curious outcomes from simply providing effective and targetted parenting programs both in men’s and women’s prisons. Who would have though that improving the quality of relationships and stengthening the bonds of support would have a positive impact.

      Nothing is going to be 100% consistent though, that always needs to be remembered. As such there quite reasonably may always be a need for prisons (revenge may at times be perfectly valid), there may also be a need to keep some locked up because quite simply they are in the far too hard (too risky, too unreliable, too dangerous) basket.

      Further, some pretty intensive investigation needs to go into the very inappropriately named Corrective Services. A reasonably high percentage of inmates having mental health conditions clealry need something other than punitive custodial sentencing, because the problem is simply not addressed by this.

    • Evalee says:

      04:39pm | 27/11/12

      As a former correctional officer, I can say that putting younger men in prison for long periods with older criminals is a recipe for disaster.  Imagine how challenging it is for a non-offending person to make any change in their lives and have that change stick. 

      Now imagine the obstacles for a person who, by the time he reaches his mid-thirties is more than likely surrounded by other people involved in a life of crime. 

      Almost as important, no one who wants him around so he misses out on the opportunity to be around a different type of person - learn from a different perspective. 

      When I was ‘on the inside’ there were uncles, brothers, grandpas and cousins all from the same family on one range.  What hope have any of those young men got to change or be encouraged and supported to change?

    • P. Walker says:

      04:45pm | 27/11/12

      Deborah, go back to selling pop corn please!  Another leftist ideologist; we have just had a rapist let out early who murdered.  We have just had another murderer become a double murderer.  Really, you need to weigh up the odds at having this scum let out early, or out period. 
      They say that some women are attracted to these low lifes, makes me wonder…

      These people will never learn, they are societies misfits who don’t give a f*** about victims, they’re toys to them.  Victims ought to be able to sue parole boards who allow a crims out to reoffend.

    • Achmed says:

      06:29pm | 27/11/12

      Too many suffer what I call the “Disney Sundrome”.  They see all this bumpf on telly and in movies of the Disney ilk.  Get some ratbag, take them into your home, give them a cuddle, feed a nice meal, show what a loving family is and KABOOM..they change into model citizens.

      The reality is, you take them into your home, they chomp down on all your food and their mates around to help, they rape the women, steal your credit card and car, clean out the jewellery box and then tell all their mates about the suckers they met


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