Our justice system is broken. The way we deal with crime simply isn’t working any more.
Over the last 30 years, the number of Australians in prison has tripled. It has grown year on year four times faster than the Australian population.
This is unsustainable and is placing extraordinary strain on Justice Department budgets around the country. In fact, we now spend $3 billion dollars a year keeping people in prison.
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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.
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.
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After two years of waiting Schapelle Corby has been granted clemency. That’s legalese for asking for mercy. Or, in Corby’s case a more lenient sentence.
It’s believed today’s judgment will cut her 20-year sentence short by up to five years. According to Sky News: “Under Indonesian law, she would be eligible for parole after having served two-thirds of her sentence, meaning that the five-year cut to her prison term could see her released later this year.”
News.com.au reports Corby sought appeal back in 2010 after suffering significant physical and mental health issues since being behind bars.
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Bradley Umar Sariff Baladjam, part-time actor, part-time bomb-maker is not happy at the prospect of serving longer than his current 14 year sentence, because the prison library is not up to scratch.
Currently ensconced behind the walls of Goulburn’s Supermax prison, Baladjam told his barrister that not only were the prison library’s opening hours far too short, he finds their collection lacking, especially books on maths and Islamic art. He’s been forced to use his Year 9 textbook to pass the time.
Now we can’t have that. Say what you will about Australian prisons and our rising rates of recidivism, but the last thing we want is bored prisoners. Who knows what else they’ll choose to get up to in there. Serving time for bad deeds is obviously necessary, but serving time without books is quite another altogether.
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It would take a brave government to decriminalise drugs – even if it was just marijuana, which is generally less harmful than alcohol. I doubt, somehow, that we’ll see it happen anytime soon, despite the mounting evidence that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed, and was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
It’s too radical and counter-intuitive for governments that are locked in a death spiral of talking tough - tough on borders, tough on crime, tough on drugs.
So this latest report, to be released today by Australia21, will fall on deaf ears despite Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s endorsement, and the involvement of Australia’s top minds on drugs and addiction and policy.
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Kat Armstrong was a heroin addict, disowned by her only daughter and serving a prison sentence of ten years.
Vulnerable to relapse, with no support, no money, no home and no skills, her biggest challenge was returning to the real world.
Clean for eight years, reunited with her daughter and mentoring other women inmates all over NSW, Armstrong’s journey is exceptional. The fact that she’s still alive is amazing.
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I don’t know about you, but I always over-pack. What’s the point in taking a suitcase if it’s not full to the brim?
So I’m starting to wonder how Gordon Nuttall managed it.
The disgraced, former Queensland health and industrial relations minister had to pack for the next seven years that he’ll spend in prison after being found guilty of corruption. Now that requires some serious planning.
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