“Andrew Leigh is completely right to say that Australia’s incarceration rate is far too high, and that reducing it can deliver significant community wide benefits without compromising community safety,” said Daniel Wild, Deputy Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.
In an address to the Australian Institute of Criminology Conference in Canberra today, Federal Assistant Minister Andrew Leigh spoke about how one of the central challenges that Australia faces is the rise in incarceration.
“The IPA has long argued that criminal justice reform needs to be undertaken as a priority, and I welcome the further contribution of Dr Leigh on the matter,” said Mr Wild.
“At a time of unprecedented, nation-wide worker shortages; we should be asking the question whether low risk and non-violent offenders should be languishing in jail or making a contribution to our community?”
“It is important to remember, sentencing reform should not be about letting people off scot-free. To be tough on crime means actually reducing crime and being clever about it.”
“Sentencing should always be targeted at those who are a high risk to the community, not non-violent offenders who show little likelihood of reoffending.”
“Low-risk, non-violent offenders should not be incarcerated, they should be punished in alternative ways, while being allowed to work and make positive contributions to the community.”
Previous IPA research found in 2014-15 alone, governments spent over $15 billion on criminal justice. The growth in prison numbers has seen an attendant explosion in prison costs. During this period Australia spent nearly $4 billion each year on the construction and operation of prisons, which equated to $300 per prisoner per day, or $110,000 annually.
“Criminal justice reform has been a long-term research priority for the IPA, and forthcoming research will again highlight the massive economic and social costs of over-incarceration,” said Mr Wild.