Failure of ‘law and order’ campaigns to reduce crime.
Over the past 20yrs there have been campaigns fuelled by politicians and the media which emphasise ‘law and order’ and ‘getting tough on crime’. However, higher incarceration levels have not been proven to reduce crime, rather it is contributing to crime in NSW. For instance, during 2004- 2005, the prison population in NSW was 10% higher than the national average. Over the past decade, the number of adult prisoners has risen by 50% in NSW.
Crime cannot be reduced by strategies that overlook its socio-economic causes and rely solely on the prison system to act as a deterrent. One of the strongest determinants of crime is disadvantage. The government needs to fund more cost-effective community programs to combat poverty, poor education, inappropriate parenting, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, and a lack of support and services.
High Recidivism Rate
In NSW, 68% of prisoners re-offend after their release with 43% re-offending after 2yrs. There is a lack of rehabilitation and education programs within gaols, which needs to be rectified. Furthermore, recidivism is caused by the same factors that drive people to crime in the first place. Key services need to be provided through proper case management to help prisoners re-integrate into the community such as housing, education, training, and mental health services will reduce recidivism.
Privatisation of Prisons
Judicial power should remain within the hands of the government rather than corporations. In the interests of a social democracy and the relationship between the citizen and the state, there is an expectation that the government will protect citizens, not a faceless corporation. Therefore, prisons should remain a state responsibility to maintain government accountability.
Privatisation also means that the public’s interests are compromised by business incentives. Corporate profit motives would result in only the minimum standards of care being met for both prisoners and staff. For example, the Victorian government was forced to resume public control of the Metro Women’s Correctional Centre after widespread drug use, deaths in custody, poor training, and cover-ups were exposed by the Armytage Enquiry. A UK report disclosed in the Independent Monitor in March 2008 placed 10 out of the 11 privately run prisons in the bottom quarter of the performance register of all UK prisoners, and found that they consistently worse than publicly run prisons.
The government has been using the prison system as a substitute for mental health institutions, which is detrimental to physical and mental health. For example, a 1997 Corrections Health survey identifies that out of the 50% of women and 33% of men in goal needing treatment for a mental illness, a proportion were not receiving it. An estimated 1000 prisoners with psychosis are not receiving appropriate medication or beds and need to be isolated from other prisoners in a health setting, not a gaol cell.
Instead of being treated by mental health professionals, people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder are being held in punitive environments. Forensic patients are often held for indefinite periods in maximum-security gaols with little opportunity for recovery, instead of the least restrictive environment. Furthermore, the common practice of solitary confinement has worsened the symptoms of some prisoners with mental illnesses.