At a time when there’s a push by some people for courts to dole out harsher sentences, an Orange barrister has come out in support of an overhaul of sentencing laws which favour rehabilitation over incarceration.
Barrister Bill Walsh said “it is the greatest reform in sentencing in the past 20 years”.
“The aim is to provide offenders with rehabilitation programs so as to prevent their re-offending,” he said.
The community needs offenders to be rehabilitated so as to stop re-offending so that the community is a safer place in which it live.Barrister Bill Walsh
Responses on social media to criminal sentencing in Orange Local Court have often called for harsher measures but Mr Walsh said research showed short full-time jail sentences do not allow sufficient time for offenders to complete rehabilitation programs.
“Harsher penalties don’t seem to stop people re-offending,” Mr Walsh said.
“The community needs offenders to be rehabilitated so as to stop re-offending so that the community is a safer place in which it live.”
Mr Walsh, who is also a CSU Centre for Law and Justice adjunct associate professor, said the changes will come in to place on Monday.
They include abolishing suspended jail sentences, which had been abolished in 1974 but were reintroduced in 2000 and have been found to increase the rate of imprisonment.
Other changes in the reforms including strengthening intensive correction orders by insisting on greater supervision and the possibility of home detention.
Domestic violence offenders will face stiffer penalties in that there will a presumption that such offenders will receive either a prison term or a supervised order.Barrister Bill Walsh
The monitoring of offenders in the community will increase significantly.
It’s hoped community service will be more readily used as a sentencing option.
“Domestic violence offenders will face stiffer penalties in that there will a presumption that such offenders will receive either a prison term or a supervised order,” Mr Walsh said.
Good behaviour bonds without a conviction recorded will become conditional release orders whilst those where a conviction is recorded will be called community correction orders.
Mr Walsh said the government hopes the reforms will see fewer offenders spending time in jail, and they will be subject to greater supervision in the community by Community Corrections officers.
“The NSW government has employed an additional 200 Community Corrections officers to implement the reforms,” he said.
- Intensive correction order (ICO) replaces; home detention orders, suspended sentences, existing corrections orders
- Community correction order (CCO) replaces; community service orders, good behaviour bonds
- Conditional release order (CRO) replaces; non-conviction bonds
“In recent years, the criminal justice system in NSW has reached breaking point with a massive increase in the prison population.
“There are now almost 14,000 people in the state’s jails, and a significant number of those people in jail are just waiting for their court cases to be finalised.
“These prisoners on remand waiting finalisation of their cases just sit in prison idly waiting to have their case dealt with by the courts. They do not have the benefit of rehabilitation or work programs whilst they are on remand.
“Two weeks ago, a man appeared for sentence in the Orange District Court and he had been in jail for two years just waiting for his case to be finalised. This man had pleaded guilty in the Local Court at any early stage and was just waiting to find out his fate in the District Court. This is an appalling and unacceptable situation.”
According to Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research the NSW prison population increased by 40 per cent in the past six years including a 4.1 per cent increase from 2017 to July 30, 2018.
“To deal with the explosion in the prison population, the government is building more and more jails at great cost to the taxpayer,” Mr Walsh said.
“Whether the sentencing reforms will result in a decrease in the prison population, only time will tell.”
Comparative costs per day (Productivity Commission, 2013)
- $292.51 per offender in custody
- $28.75 per offender supervised in the community
In introducing the new sentencing reforms, the Attorney General, Mark Speakman said Australian and international research showed that community supervision, combined with programs that target the causes of crime, reduce offending.
“We know that community supervision is better at reducing reoffending than leaving an offender in the community with no supervision, support or programs,” he said.
“We also know that community supervision is better at reducing reoffending than a short prison sentence/
“Many offenders are not receiving the supervision and programs under a suspended sentence that would compel them to address their offending behaviour in the community.”
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