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Reviewing the role of prisons

Reviewing the role of prisons

While concerns are being expressed about the plight of most Australians being adversely affected by the developing world-wide recession, the fate of 25,000 ‘out-of-sight’ citizens incarcerated in our jails should not be ‘out- of- our- minds”‘. Of special note are the indigenous prisoners who comprise 22% of the prison inmates whilst accounting for 2.2% of the general population.

Many of those entering prisons committed offences while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, suffered from mental health problems and family break-ups or were homeless, unemployed and unable to afford legal representation before being sentenced.

At a running cost of up to $1,200 a week for each prisoner housed in the ever- expanding, multi-million dollar institutions, this heavy drain on public revenue is acceptable only if the stated twin aims of public safety and prisoner rehabilitation are accomplished. The current recidivist rate of 68% and beyond in some States, puts this in doubt.

Only regular, open government audits and reviews of the effectiveness of prisons, wherein violence and intimidation occur daily (as Rodney Adler and Glenn Wheatley testify), will enable us to assess the true value of prisons and the reforms needed to justify their continued use.

Keith McEwan, CLA member, Bendigo, Vic.

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