Why being tough on crime fails.

The recent Liberal government’s “tough on crime” policy was never going to work. Anyone who knows anything about the revolving doors of offending, prison and reoffending was pointing that out the time.

But now the figures are in and prove what everybody (well a sensible ones anyhow) was saying.

The prison system is failing to make Victoria a safer place, with nearly one in two prisoners returning to jail within two years of release, a report has found. 

There are  calls for a drastic reform of the corrections system, with more focus on tackling the cause of crime and more services and programs for prisoners in jail

The major difficulty is that the young prisoners being incarcerated with older and more hardened criminals only exacerbates their criminal tendencies. It’s a place where you can establish extensive criminal networks and set yourself up for a life of crime.  Even if you don’t want to.

If you’re extremely unlucky, you are released into the community without sufficient support and the chances of reoffending are greatly increased.  Problems of homelessness, unemployment and drug addiction don’t suddenly disappear when you’re released from jail.

It is often difficult for the public and in particular the victims of crime to understand that putting the perpetrators in jail is not the answer. It may satisfy the desire for retribution  on the part of the victims but it also increases the chances of there being more victims.

It is very easy for populist politicians to portray rehabilitation processes as being a soft option but in the case of young and first-time offenders is often the most effective way of guarding against recidivism.

Community-based rehabilitation processes, like those established at the Neighbourhood Justice Centre in Collingwood, have demonstrated that  community-based correction orders and the provision of support services, particularly those that address the root causes of crime such as homelessness and drug addiction,  a far more effective than incarceration.

 NJC director Kerry Walker
NJC director Kerry Walker

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to turn round community attitudes, particularly when right-wing politicians are pandering to sections of the community who believe that retribution and punishment is more important than rehabilitation.

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