Policies Around Community Safety Needed
21 August 2014 at 10:56 am
One hundred days out from a Victorian State election, Jesuit Social Services has called on both major political parties in Victoria to forgo what the Not for Profit organisation says are misguided and costly law and order policies.
The advocacy organisation says Victoria needs an approach-focused around building community safety.
“Victorians deserve more than a race to the bottom on law and order,”Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards said.
“Since the last state election, law and order reforms such as the mandatory sentencing legislation introduced into Parliament this week have led to a significant increase in our prison population, which has grown by more than a third from 4,581 to 6,230 over this period.
“There is little evidence to suggest these policies will make our community safer. On the contrary, prison often exacerbates the problems that lead people to offend in the first place.”
Edwards says that with prison operating costs having increased by more than 50 per cent from 2009-10 to 2012-13, every extra dollar spent on imprisonment is a dollar not spent on education, health, transport or other priorities.
Jesuit Social Services’ upcoming election platform suggests a range of initiatives to reduce reliance on the state’s prison system, including an expansion of the Neighbourhood Justice Centre model to other parts of Victoria and the development of a problem-solving court to divert people with multiple and complex problems such as cognitive disability, mental illness and drug and alcohol abuse.
“If we want to create safer communities, we need to invest in programs targeting the root causes and underlying disadvantage behind crime and place an emphasis on crime prevention and diversion programs,” Edwards said.
“A major focus of the next Victorian Government must be the development of options that divert people from the justice system, such as reforms to develop a more effective sentencing framework that uses evidence and is based on judicial discretion.
“This would allow us to hold people who offend to account while providing them opportunities to become productive members of the community.”