No safety in plan to jail more - Liberty

State Government plans to jail more people will not make Victorians safer, rights group Liberty Victoria warned today. 

"Practical experience of the criminal justice system has long shown that in many cases offenders who are imprisoned pose a greater risk to the community upon release due to the harmful effects of jail," said Liberty Victoria Vice President, Michael Stanton.

"That is especially the case with youthful offenders." 

He said Victorian prisons are already overflowing and prisoners are not being brought to court as required. "Where will these new prisoners be held?" 

Community correction orders are not given for crimes such as murder, said Liberty, adding that the Government fails to provide examples of these orders being given inappropriately. 

Premier Daniel Andrews describe the orders as a "slap on the wrist". "He has a fundamental misunderstanding of how the orders work in practice. As noted by the former Attorney-General when the orders were introduced, they are not a soft option."

The orders can involve: 

  • Up to 600 hours of community work.  
  • Compulsory treatment conditions, such as counselling and rehabilitation or education courses.  
  • Non-association conditions. 
  • Residence restriction or exclusion conditions. 
  • Place or area exclusion conditions, curfew conditions and alcohol exclusion conditions.  
  • Active judicial monitoring. 

Importantly, the orders may be combined with up to two years’ jail. "They are a flexible and appropriate sentencing option in many cases. The proposal to reduce that period to a year’s imprisonment is deeply short-sighted.

"If orders are breached an offender can be re-sentenced for the original offence. Often this will be to a term of imprisonment." 

And if an order is not appropriate, the Director of Public Prosecutions can and does appeal against such sentences. 

Mr Stanton said successive Victorian Governments have followed a pattern of passing laws to restrict the sentencing discretion of the courts.

"Parole laws have changed, leading to many offenders serving entire jail sentences and being released back into the community without any supervision. Limiting the use of community correction orders further limits the supervision of offenders in the community. That does nothing to make us safer; it is merely a further step towards an American style system of mass incarceration at vast public expense and of no demonstrable benefit to the community."

Liberty Victoria media contact
Liberty Victoria Vice President, Michael Stanton