State government modelling of Victoria’s prison population may over-estimate numbers.

Victoria’s prison population has increased by 80% in the last decade, primarily as a result of a “tough on crime” approach by both sides of politics

The annual cost of running the state’s prisons is now more than $1.6 billion, triple the outlay in 2009-2010. As well, the government announced a record $1.8 billion in new capital spending on prison infrastructure over four years in a bid to accommodate 1600 more prisoners.

Projections released exclusively to The Age reveal that the growth will continue into the foreseeable future: the Andrews government expects prisoner numbers to soar from 8110 today to 11,130 by June 2023.

This is a simple system dynamics model of the prison population

From published figures is possible to model the rates of prison release, recidivism and first offender incarcerations up until 2019 and then project for the next four years until 2023.

The model has a number of assumptions: that the recidivism rate will be 43% after two years, that the average stay in jail is slightly over one year and that incarceration rates will be linear based on 2008 – 2019 figures. Release and recidivism rates rise in line with the increase of incarceration.

The difficulty with this linear projection is that it shows no sign of flattening. It is reasonable to assume that sometime in the future incarceration rates will plateau. When is a question.

Given these assumptions and these increasing rates of incarceration, The model shows the growth in the gaol population.

The projection for the prison population in 2023 is 9600, 15% below the government’s estimate of 11,130.

For the prison population to reach the government’s estimated total, there would need to be an increase in incarceration rates, recidivism rates or sentence length.

At present, there is nothing to suggest that these rates will change.

However, the government plans to increase the number of beds in prisons by 1600 over the next four years. This will take prison capacity in Victoria to 9700, just 100 above the total projected in the model.

George Pell’s Melbourne Response revealed as inadequate for victims but very good for the lawyer.

In an article in The Age entitled Revealed: the true costs of George Pell’s abuse compensation scheme Farrah Tomazin writes:

The controversial scheme set up by George Pell to handle sex abuse claims against Melbourne’s Catholic Church spent almost as much money paying its independent commissioner as it did compensating hundreds of victims.

The church’s own figures reveal that between 1996 and March 2014, the archdiocese spent $34.27 million to run its so-called Melbourne Response, but only $9.72 million – or 28 per cent of it – was used to compensate 307 child sex abuse victims.

The bulk of the money during that period was spent on other operational costs for the scheme, including $7.8 million to employ barrister Peter O’Callaghan, QC, as its independent commissioner, and a further $4.7 million on general legal fees.

Peter O’Callaghan, QC, gives testimony about the Melbourne Response at a Victorian parliamentary inquiry in 2013.CREDIT:JUSTIN MCMANUS

The expenditureI in this pie chart

If anyone seriously believed that the Melbourne Response was aimed at helping and compensating victims, this article must surely dispel that belief.

Counterintuitive effects of the “tough on crime”: A systems perspective

In an article entitled Is there any way back from the war on crime? Royce Millar and Chris Vedelago point out that the prison population has almost doubled in a decade. Especially confronting for Labor is that the growth is far greater for women than men, for Indigenous people it’s greater still, and for Indigenous women it’s greater again.

Our prisons are increasingly populated by lower-level offenders on remand, ineligible for bail, unable to get a timely hearing or incapable of meeting conditions for their release such as stable housing.

I have written two blogs on this

The ironies of being tough on crime (November 25, 2014)

The ” tough-on-crime” dilemma” (November 3, 2016)

The problem with locking up offenders, particularly first-time or low-level offenders is that in prison they come in contact with much more hardened criminals and the influence of these criminals often outweighs the chances of rehabilitation. This in turn leads to an increase in recidivism and individuals get trapped in a cycle explained in this causal loop diagram

This cycle is a reinforcing cycle where, that attracts individuals who cycled (often repeatedly) through the system and which also places increasing pressure on the prison system through public policies of “tough on crime”.

(To help understand this diagram click  How to read a causal loop diagram)

As a society, we face a dilemma in the way we treat criminals. The political right argues that we need to be “tough-on-crime” which means locking up everybody who has committed an offence. The idea behind this is that it keeps society safe for the rest of us with all the bad people incarcerated.

An opposing view is that locking people up is often counter-productive and extremely expensive. Spending time in prison, it is argued, is a shortcut to a life of crime. The money spent on housing prisons would be much better spent on rehabilitation programs.

This seems to be ample evidence now that incarceration is not the solution to rising crime rates. In fact, it may be exactly the opposite with inadequate rehabilitation programs and early release programs driven by prison numbers making a contribution to rising crime rates.

The dynamics of this situation are shown in the causal loop diagram below.

The fundamental dynamic is that the number of convicted criminals and those on remand increase in prison population. This “population pressure” reduces the effectiveness and adequacy of rehabilitation programs. This in turn leads to the initiation of premature early release programs to ease prison overcrowding. Both of these factors lead to an increase in recidivism, often seen in the reoffending of prisoners released on bail. Public outcry normally follows the worst of these cases and the whole cycle begins again.

This particular set of loops is a reinforcing  system which means that the situation continues to get worse as the prison population rises.

Fundamental to this particular cycle is the assumption that rehabilitation in prison is the best way of solving the problem. The practical reality is that rehabilitation programs tend not to be effective, particularly in the prison environment.

I will discuss one solution which involves intervention before the offender goes to jail in a later blog.

Rugby Australia chief sets the record straight on Israel Folau

Extracts from the SMH interview with RA chairman Cameron Clyne: “Corporate sponsors and the state and federal government would have deserted the game if they hadn’t sacked Israel Folau,

We’d have no sponsors at all because no sponsor has indicated they would be willing to be associated with social media posts of that sort and that includes government, because we’ve also heard from them.

“We would also potentially be in litigation with employees who are gay and who would say we’re not providing a work place that is safe or respectful.”

I would go back to Israel Folau’s comments from last year when he said if it was hurting the game he’d walk away for the good of the game.

“We’ve provided a player with opportunities and asked him to adhere to a contract and a generous one at that. Israel was not sacked for his religion, he was sacked for a breach of his contract.”

“There was an initial breach last year, we went through a process of discussing that breach and outlining Israel’s obligations under his contract…..the player was given the opportunity to understand what his responsibilities under the contract was.””There was an initial breach last year, we went through a process of discussing that breach and outlining Israel’s obligations under his contract…..I haven’t had any sponsor come forward and say they were happy with the post or happy to be associated with it.

And to put the rugby superstars skills and perspective there was this interview from Rugby Australia’s elite coaching director Rod Kafer: who said that at international rugby Folau had been found wanting at times and that the Wallabies’ balance had been compromised by playing him at fullback. 

The effectiveness of Folau at fullback started to wane over the past few years as oppositions began to increasingly target his kicking deficiencies and positional play.

In international rugby I don’t think he’s been an outstanding player and I think we compensate around him, we have to pick different players in different positions.

I don’t necessarily see him as a great team player,” Kafer said. “His work ethic’s not great, he doesn’t work that hard off the ball (and) defensively there are issues.

New Zealand’s Waisake Naholo tackles Australia’s Israel Folau.

Wallabies lock Justin Harrison said that for all of Folau’s brilliance at times, his winning percentage rate, which is 47.26, was telling.

He really hasn’t delivered on some of the things that he was supposed to deliver on, which is winning Test matches,” Harrison said. “In fact, I can remember Test matches he’s lost for us.”

Perhaps Israel Folau’s international career was on the wane, if not over and this action against Rugby Australia is motivated, in part, by a desire to ensure a post-rugby payout. Some lawyers have doubted whether Folau really needed as much as the $3 million he was appealing for on Go Fund Me to mount a Federal Court action. His motives in raising the money was certainly cast into doubt when it was made clear that he was under no obligation to use the money to fund his legal costs.

After this affair there are likely be very few clubs that would employ him. No doubt someone will, but they will have to be someone who does not support gay footballers, who has sufficient money not to need sponsors and who doesn’t mind their players planting their contract conditions..

Perhaps the Australian Christian Lobby could field a team specially for Israel.

How women are disadvantaged in the superannuation system

In a previous blog, I modelled the superannuation contributions of a full-time employee earning $60,000 a year. This employee retires with a superannuation lump sum of $1.1 million

In the first section of this blog I will model a female employee on $60,000 a year who works full-time until she is 29 and when she takes four years off to have her first child,

She returns to work full-time for two years, then takes another four years off when she turns 35 to have a second child. She then returns to work half-time until she turned 60 when she returns to work full-time, in order to boost to superannuation savings, until her retirement at 65.

This is what her employment history looks like in graphical form

At retirement, her lump sum is $780,000, just over 70% of the lump sum of a full-time employee.

The huge advantage of the current scheme is that, for the female employee, her superannuation fund continues earning interest during the periods when she is not working.

However her employment pattern has significant implications for \ her retirement income. You can see the details of the retirement income of the full-time worker in this blog.

On retirement, she can draw down $60,000 a year until she is 85 when her superannuation will run out.

While $60,000 year compares well with her final post-tax salary of $53,000, she is in nothing like the position of the full-time employee whose superannuation lump sum declines only slightly after retirement. When the retiree dies at the age of 85, there is still has $908,000 in his superannuation account. This can become part of his estate and passed on to the children.

This is a luxury that the female superannuation does not have, given her employment history.

If the full-time employee wishes to leave nothing in the superannuation fund and assumes he will die at 85, he can draw a retirement income of $87,000 a year. That’s 34,000 tax-free dollars more than his working income of $54,000 and $27,000 more than a female employee with a different work pattern.

If there is to be a debate about whether superannuation contribution rates should be 9.5% or 12%, it also needs to be a debate about how the superannuation savings of women who choose to move in and out of the workforce or to work part-time, can be supplemented.

Counter-intuitive electoral analysis from the ABC

Electorates that swung hardest to the Liberal and National parties on a two-party preferred basis had a higher share of voters on low incomes, with low educational attainment, and higher levels of unemployment.

“Low income, low education and Christian religion were all features of electorates which swung to the Coalition,” says Professor Ben Phillips, an economic modelling specialist from the ANU.

“The share of blue-collar workers in the electorate was a particularly strong driver,” he says, with a 61 per cent correlation with electorates that swung to the Coalition.

Just as coal towns of the Appalachian Mountains ditched the Democrats, Labor suffered a backlash in Australian mining districts, haemorrhaging votes to minor parties such as Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and One Nation.

In sharp contrast, wealthy electorates with higher incomes swung Labor’s way.

Labor enjoyed the biggest swings towards it in electorates with a highest level of franking credits — a broad proxy for share ownership.

The statistical analysis is interesting, the causal analysis is rather more difficult because the entire situation is totally counterintuitive.

The analysis would appear to support the thesis that people who benefit from franking credits were prepared to vote for the abolition of franking credits.

On the other hand, it suggests that people with the least to gain from the tax cuts and reliant on ever-decreasing government support for social services voted for a party determined to end, or limit, government spending on low income earners and the unemployed.

Josh Frydenberg’s problem: a systems view

Ross Gittens in The Age: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is not the first treasurer to be strong on party dogma but light on economic understanding, but he’s among the first to be heading into stormy weather light on expert advice from a confident and competent Treasury.

Do you think that while cooking up the happy forecasts needed to justify his claims of Mission Accomplished and make his tax cuts seem affordable, Treasury warned him of the risks he was running, making himself and his government hostages to fortune?

I doubt it. They wouldn’t have been game to. The Coalition’s politicisation of Treasury, intended to kill its corporate sense of mission and replace it with people who’d proved their right-thinking and party loyalty as ministerial staffers, sent the message that the government wanted people who spoke only when spoken to and kept any contrary opinions to themselves.

Gittens’ is that it’s economically irresponsible to be pressing on with fiscal reducing debt and deficit) rather than providing stimulus to economic growth.

The economy is caught in a vicious circle: private consumption and business investment can’t grow strongly because there’s no growth in real wages, but real wages will stay weak until stronger growth in consumption and investment rises.

This is a systems view of the problem using causal diagrams.

One sector of the economy that is storming is retail and this is result of a decline in family and consumer discretionary income.

The larger picture is that Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe believes monetary policy (the setting of interest rates by the Reserve Bank) is no longer an effective tool for economic stimulus and that fiscal policy must be used to stimulate the economy.

If you are new to caution diagrams click here How to read a causal diagram

Ross Gittens believes that the politicisation of Treasury under the current Coalition government has gutted the organisation of the expertise and will to provide the necessary advice on the choices available to government.

If you’re interested in reading more about causal loop diagrams click here

Trump promised “I’m not going to have time to play golf.” But this is what the voters got

In August of 2016, Donald Trump stood before an audience in northern Virginia and made a casual, but firm promise. As president, he said, “I’m going to be working for you. I’m not going to have time to play golf.”

Huffinton Post: The $102 million total to date spent on Trump’s presidential golfing represents 255 times the annual presidential salary he volunteered not to take. It is more than three times the cost of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that Trump continually complains about. It would fund for six years the Special Olympics program that Trump’s proposed budget had originally cut to save money.

Simon Vouet: Allegorical paintings and the depiction of women.

Tim Haslett's Blog

Simon Vouet’s The Rape of Europa is probably not an allegorical painting in the strictest sense but it does carry meaning beyond the painting of a beautiful woman resting on a snow white bull.

This is the story of the abduction, rather than rape, of the beautiful Europa by the god Zeus who disguised himself as a bull in order to hide amongst Europa’s father’s herd. When she climbed on his back, heswam off Crete where he made herthe Queen and presumably had his way with her.

Saturn, Conquered by Amor, Venus and Hope

The painting is a typically baroque fantasy filled withbeautifullight surfaces and with everyone swooning all over the place. Even the bull has a strange moon-calf expression on his face.

The painting showsVouet at his best with the subtle gradationsof light setting off the forms of Europa, the bull and thetwo handmaidens. But asa painting, it is verging towards prettiness.

Saturn, Conquered by Amor…

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The moral ambiguity of Alessandro Allori’s Susanna and the Elders

Tim Haslett's Blog

Perhaps the most confrontational and in many ways morally ambiguous painting of Susanna is by Alessandro Allori. The confrontational aspect is the Elders’ assault on Susanna which is portrayed in graphic and symbolic detail. The moral ambiguity comes in the great beauty of the painting itself. This Susanna is probably one of the most beautiful of all of the depictions and it sets up an immediate tension between what was being portrayed and our appreciation of the painting.

Susanna and The Elders

The first thing that we notice about this painting is the luminescent quality of the nude Susanna. The light that falls on her body makes her the focal centre of the painting. Her body is contorted as she twists around to face one of her tormentors. As she does this, the second Elder’s face fits into the contours of her body as he slides his hand between her legs. These are two…

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