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Media organisations seeking comment on Smart Justice issues should contact:

Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic)
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[email protected]

The views expressed in Smart Justice media releases and media comment do not necessarily reflect the views of the individual Smart Justice partner organisations.

July 2016

Register for our Smart Justice Symposium on 25 August in Melbourne

The Smart Justice Symposium, Remaking Justice, will bring together government, academic, legal and service sector leaders to explore opportunities for working together to 'remake justice' and improve the justice system.The Symposium will examine critical issues, including the recommendations in the Victorian Ombudsman's landmark report, Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria and recent update.

We invite you to help us remake justice: save this date

The Smart Justice symposium in Melbourne on 25 August 2016, Remaking Justice, will bring together government, academic, legal and service sector leaders to explore opportunities for working together to improve the justice system.The symposium will hear from people with direct experience of the justice system and examine critical issues, including the recommendations in the Victorian Ombudsman's landmark report, Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria and recent update. We hope youcan join us to discuss how we can collaboratively 'remake justice.' More details soon

April 2016

Budget needs greater crime prevention focus

Substantial law and order spending outlined in today's State Budget continues to focus too heavily on addressing the consequences of crime, rather than tackling the causes to stop it in the first place, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 34 community organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

September 2015

Ombudsman report shows urgent need for criminal justice rethink

A Victorian Ombudsman report released today shows an urgent need to rethink criminal justice in Victoria, according to the Smart Justice Project of the Federation of Community Legal Centres.'The first requirement of any criminal justice policy is that it actually works. This report shows that Victoria's justice system is over-reliant on prisons that come at a crippling human and economic cost, and are failing to boost community safety,' said Michelle McDonnell, Senior Policy Adviserfor Smart Justice, today.

May 2015

Stories from the Inside aims to change lives and stop youth offending

For close to two years a group of young, first-time offenders aged between 18 and 25, all inmates at the Youth Unit at Port Philip Prison, have been making a film that they hope will change lives. Read more about Stories from the Inside.

Prison system remains costly and pressured, but balance tilts towards reducing reoffending and boosting safety

Tuesday 5 May 2015 - for immediate release. The State Budget has revealed that the cost of running Victoria's pressured and crowded prison system is set to top $1 billion a year excluding construction costs, as the recidivism rate is predicted to climb to an alarming 45 per cent in 2015.

January 2015

To fix Victoria's broken prison system, heed the evidence

Findings presented in a Report on Government Services (ROGS) released by the Productivity Commission today support calls for an evidence-based approach to justice policy in Victoria rather than a continuation of failed tough-on-crime policies implemented by the former Napthine Government, says Smart Justice, a coalition of 31 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

November 2014

Reoffending on the rise, as Victoria lags on diversion

Reoffending is climbing in Victoria, despite the steep increase in imprisonment and the record expansion of Victoria's prisons. Almost 40 per cent of Victorian prisoners reoffend within two years, and that figure is rising, despite a steady decline from 2003-04 to 2009-10.

Massive growth in prison spending shows Victorian Government values a flawed solution to crime over vital community services

Tuesday 18 November 2014 - for immediate release. Figures reported in The Age today show that prison spending has recorded the third highest level of growth of all spending under the Victorian Government over the last three years. Prisons spending has grown by nearly $200 million (32 per cent), compared to growth in secondary school spending (2 per cent), TAFE (2 per cent), hospital outpatients (1 per cent), and a massive decline in spending on public housing (49 per cent).

Victorian election: Why 'tough-on-crime' has failed the crucial test

The goal of a safer community is laudable. But more prisons and harsher sentences aren't the answer, we say in our guest post for the Guardian Australia.

Relying on prisons doesn't work

Tuesday 11 November 2014. Today Smart Justice releases new infographics showing disturbing trends in the cost of running prisons in Victoria, and in the State's imprisonment rate. In 2014-15 alone, Victoria will spend more than $940 million on corrections - an increase of 47 per cent in two years.

New infographics show disturbing prison trends in Victoria

A Smart Justice infographic: prisons promote re-offending, which leads to more victims and the massive growth in Victoria's prison population is costing us billions.

Smart Justice challenges Government justice policies on evidence and cost

Saturday 1 November 2014. The Victorian Government's law and order measures have today been challenged on cost and the lack of evidence supporting their effectiveness by Smart Justice, a coalition of 31 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

September 2014

Final abolition of suspended sentences in Victoria the wrong path to community safety, says Smart Justice

Monday 1 September 2014 - for immediate release. The abolition of suspended sentences in the Magistrates' Court from today will likely see an increase in fines and imprisonment for lower-level offending, worsening prison overcrowding and wasteful prison spending, and undermining community safety, according to the Smart Justice project.

August 2014

Save the date for our Wheeler Centre forum in Melbourne on tackling crime the smart way

Smart Justice, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Wheeler Centre are co-hosting a panel discussion on 'Tackling Crime the Smart Way'. The panel will be facilitated by Damien Carrick and includes Magistrate Pauline Spencer, Rob Hulls (Director of the Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT) and the former head of Queensland Corrections, Marlene Morrison. Put Thursday 11th September at the Wheeler Centre, 6.15pm to 7.15pm in your diary. Tickets will go on sale on 1 September. Please don't contact the Wheeler Centre for tickets until then. Further details to follow.

May 2014

State Government persists with damaging and wasteful non-solution as $450m+ goes on prisons in Vic State Budget

Tuesday 6 May 2014 - for immediate release. The Victorian Government's State Budget announcement of more than $450m ($454.3m) for nearly 900 new prison beds (871) and work towards a further 300 beds adds to previous record prison spending and is a damaging and wasteful non-solution that will not reduce crime or make the community safer, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

March 2014

Ombudsman scathing of increasing risk of death and self-harm in Victoria's overcrowded prisons

Wednesday 26 March 2014 - for immediate release. Findings from the Victorian Ombudsman's investigation into deaths in custody tabled in Parliament today offer a scathing assessment and an urgent warning of the consequences of further unchecked prison overcrowding, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.-The Ombudsman has directly linked overcrowding in our prisons, lack of appropriate health services, and continuing high-prevalence of hanging points to an increasing risk of self-harm and death,- said Michelle McDonnell, Smart Justice spokesperson for the Federation, today.  More >

February 2014

Abolition of suspended sentences must be delayed

Tuesday 25 February 2014. Findings of a new report by the Sentencing Advisory Council have prompted Smart Justice to call on the Victorian Government to delay the abolition of suspended sentences in the Magistrates' Court scheduled to occur in September this year.The report, Community Corrections Orders–The First 18 Months, shows that, after an initial uptake, community corrections orders have declined, while fines and sentences of imprisonment have continued to rise in a system already experiencing chronic over-crowding.  More >

January 2014

Productivity Commission report shows Victoria's massive prison spending just doesn't add up

Thursday 30 January 2014 The latest Productivity Commission Report on Government Services confirms that Victoria's massive prison invest-ment just doesn't add up, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres (click headline for full story).

December 2013

Victorian Ombudsman rejects placing minors in adult prison

Thursday 12 December 2013 - for immediate releaseJustice advocacy groups Smart Justice and Smart Justice For Young People have welcomed a report by the Victorian Ombudsman calling for a halt to the transfer of children from the youth justice system to adult prison. The report was tabled in State Parliament today.(Click on headline for full story.)

The facts on tough-on-crime speak for themselves

Thursday 5 December 2013. A statement by Corrections Minister Edward O'Donohue suggesting that a campaign to solve the prison crisis and boost community safety is politically aligned and not based on facts has been rejected by Smart Justice, a broad-based coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. (Click headline for full story).

November 2013

Spike in Victorian prisoner numbers demands rethink of justice policy

21 November. A spike in prisoner numbers in Victoria revealed by national prison statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today shows that an urgent rethink of government justice policy is needed, says Smart Justice, a coalition of 29 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.Over the last decade, Victoria's prison population has grown by around 48 per cent. The latest figures show that Victoria has added 100 additional prisoners per month over the last four months.  More >

September 2013

Ravenhall prison expansion is planning for the wrong future

Tuesday 17 September 2013. The Victorian Government's announcement of plans to double the capacity of the new Ravenhall prison to 1000 beds is planning for the wrong future and risks reducing community safety rather than improving it, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of community organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

$10.7m for prison consultancies should have gone to tackling the causes of crime, says Smart Justice

Monday 2 September - for immediate releaseThe $10.7 million in consultancies reported to have been spent on developing the new 500-bed Ravenhall private prison would have been far better spent on tackling the causes of crime, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 27 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres. -Every dollar spent on new prisons is a dollar we can't spend on preventing crime before it happens,- said Smart Justice spokesperson, Michelle McDonnell, today.  More >

July 2013

Invitation to be part of the Smart Justice professional development day- 30 August

Smart Justice presents a unique training opportunity for Smart Justice supporters based on critical media analysis and narrative strategy to build a powerful smart justice story to guide us in our advocacy.

May 2013

Growing imprisonment rates an expensive non-solution to community safety

The continued growth in Victoria's imprisonment rate detailed in the latest report of the Sentencing Advisory Council will potentially worsen under law-and-order measures yet to come on stream, according to the Smart Justice project, a coalition of organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

Community safety not served by Budget prison boost

The 2013/14 Victorian State Budget has again focused on extending the prison system - an expensive approach to crime that will fail to boost community safety and will divert urgently needed funds from programs addressing the causes of crime,according to Smart Justice, a coalition of organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

November 2012

Smart Justice calls for ongoing investment in Victoria's Systemic Review of Family Violence Deaths

We're calling for ongoing investment in this review to learn more from family violence deaths to prevent future deaths and serious injury. See more on our fact sheet on preventing family violence on our website and consider joining us at the Red Rose Rally in Melbourne on 13 November. Details are on the link.

August 2012

Stalled prison project cause to rethink flawed policy

The stalled Ararat prison expansion is cause to rethink the Victorian Government's flawed harsher sentencing policies which are accelerating the rapid, unsustainable growth in Victoria's prison population, according to Smart Justice, a coalition of 24 legal and community organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.  More >

July 2012

Campbell's Tick and Flick Government

Campbell Newman's approach to his new mandatory parole laws is straightforward: ignore any advice that says it's stupid policy, and abolish organisations that stand in its way.

May 2012

Time for prison reform across Australian states

The World Today asks Professor Eileen Baldry, Hugh de Kretser from Smart Justice and former prisoner Robert Barco who's now a youth program coordinator if there's a disconnect between crime and punishment in Australia's states.

Victoria: on the move to become the 'prison state'?

Victoria's number plates may proclaim it's 'on the move' but the prison spending blow-out in this month's state budget could mean it's no longer 'the place to be' in terms of smarter justice policies, says Michelle McDonnell from Smart Justice.

OPI review fuels growing doubts over stop and search powers

Smart Justice has welcomed a call by the Office of Police Integrity for more public debate on Victoria Police use of controversial stop and search powers first legislated in 2009. 'The OPI review tabled in parliament today has only fuelled growing doubt that police powers to stop and search people without a warrant or reasonable suspicion have gone too far,' said Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser today. 'The review points to a failure to comply with legislative requirements for reporting the use of these powers, with the available data for armed robberies showing 'no discernible impact' on the use of knives- a key motivation for introducing these laws in the first place'.

State budget: $500m Ravenhall prison put before health, transport

Melton Council has questioned the state government budget that puts a new $500 million prison in the area ahead of much needed local transport and health projects.

Bold steps needed to keep Aborigines out of jail

The Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People campaign was launched today. The group is calling for funds to be diverted from prisons into prevention and treatment programs for young Aboriginal people to address issues such as poverty, homelessness and drug and alcohol use.

$500m prison not safer or smarter in a tight Budget

Amid a tight State Budget, Smart Justice says a $500 million commitment to a new prison continues a dangerous trend of ineffective and expensive prison expansion that will fail to prevent crime, tackle its causes, or rehabilitate prisoners so they are less likely to re-offend.

Government must set up independent crime stats body

Ongoing concerns over crime statistics reporting by Victoria Police highlight the need for the Victorian Government to set up an independent crime stats agency in Victoria, says Smart Justice, a coalition of 22 leading legal and community agencies.

April 2012

Chief law officer eschews a law-and-order auction for young offenders

An interesting profile on former prosecutor and Liberal Party Right faction member, Greg Smith. Now the New South Wales Attorney-General, he is implementing policies that address the causes of crime rather than simply looking at bringing in harsher sentences.

$500m new prison as crime fight gets tough

The May state budget includes plans for a 500 bed medium security prison and funding for 395 more beds at existing jails. Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser considered that jail expansion on this scale was a sign of failure in the fight against crime. Meanwhile the majority of Herald Sun readers responding to a poll don't believe the new prisons will deter people from committing crimes.

Prison expansion a sign of failure in the fight against crime

Today's announcement by the Victorian Government of plans to build a new 500 bed prison in Melbourne's West is further evidence that Victoria is getting it wrong on tackling crime according to Smart Justice, a coalition of legal and community groups. 'Jail expansion on this scale is a sign of failure in the fight against crime,' said Hugh de Kretser, Smart Justice spokesperson. 'The half a billion price tag for the extra jail beds is half a billion that will be diverted away from programs that are far cheaper and more effective in cutting crime.'

Discriminating on criminal records: why we need reform in Vic

Discrimination on the ground that a person has a criminal record is widespread in Victoria where there is no spent conviction scheme, says James Farrell.

Converts and sceptics on the road to drug law reform

Even Alan Jones has changed his mind and now agrees with the findings of the prominent Australia 21 group that the war on drugs has failed and that it is time for a re-think.

Law and order auction' draws NSW AG's fire

Law and order politics under the previous Labor government has played a significant role in the current state of complex sentencing laws in New South Wales says Greg Smith. The net effect is more sentencing errors and appeals.

New report: Drugs war 'a failure' that bred criminals

'The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are letting it happen'.

March 2012

Law agenda clogging up the courts

The flow on effect of government's law and order policies include a huge demand for legal services and delays in court proceedings.

Public Opinion and Youth Justice Conferencing

A survey finds that there is strong public support for restorative justice measures such as Youth Justice Conferencing.

Judges get it right: Sentencing survey

A Victorian study reveals that very few prison sentences are reduced on appeal.

Tough prison terms don't reduce crime: NSW study

Another report from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics.

Uses and abuses of crime statistics

The misuse of crime statistics impedes rational debate about law and order according to Don Weatherburn.

The bad news is there's good news on falling crime rates

The Australian Institute of Criminology's latest release on crime statistics gets little publicity. An interesting analysis on why this is the case.

Calls to expand funding for Koori Court

Federation of Community Legal Centres executive officer Hugh de Kretser says there is an urgent need to take action to end over-representation of indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.

February 2012

Prison Realities and the Need for Change

Peter Norden says forums such as Rights Now seem to represent potential leaders in our community who may well be prepared to champion changes to the criminal justice system in future years.

Pricey prisons no substitute for services

Victoria needs to reevaluate its spending priorities, particularly those that will further inflate the already spiraling costs of prisons, according to VCOSS.

Private prisons and the Productivity Commission: where is the value for money?

Peter Norden comments on the recently released Productivity Commission report on Government Services 2012 which has a chapter on corrective services.

Prison Jobs: A false economy

The Victorian Government's announcement of 1,500 jobs for prison expansion was today heavily criticised by the Smart Justice Coalition, a coalition of leading community and legal groups.

January 2012

Human behaviour can't be expected from the dehumanised

Greg Barnes says we should take media reports about the causes of last week's prisoner protests with a grain of salt.

Prison policy: NSW leads while Victoria makes mistakes

Hugh de Kretser spokesperson for Smart Justice compares prison policies in New South Wales and Victoria. He says the Victorian policy shift looks likely to saddle the state with a prison legacy that will suck billions of much needed taxpayer funds into a populist policy sinkhole. NSW in contrast, is cutting its prison population, closing jails and investing in reoffending reduction programs.

Train armed guard plans stall

Channel 9 news reports on the logistical issues with implementing the government's election promise to put armed Protective Sevices Officers on every train station in Melbourne.

Uses and abuses of crime statistics

This New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research report concludes that misuse of crime statistics by the media has impeded rational debate about law and order.

Six Big Changes to Sentencing from January 2012

The Sentencing Advisory Council updates us on the changes to sentencing law in Victoria. The changes commence on 16 January.

New cop shop allocations

The Age reports that Victoria's regions with the highest level of reported crime will get the same number of new police as the safest Melbourne suburbs.

Effective law and order policy need not be a shot in the dark

Don Weatherburn asks why governments trumpet the virtues of evidence-based policy, while often ignoring it in practice.

Prison can do a grave injustice to the intellectually impaired

Using jails as back-door mental institutions leads to rights breaches according to Graeme Innes, Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

Tougher sentencing blow

The Age reports that in 2011, 20% of trial judges' sentences reviewed by the Court of Appeal were considered excessive while only seven received longer sentences because the original sentence was inadequate.

December 2011

Sentencing: Why we need a rational debate more than ever

Chief Magistrate Ian Gray delivers an oration to Victoria University Law School.

Aboriginal crime and punishment: spending on jails but not outcomes

David Woodroffe, managing solicitor in criminal law at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in the NT, commenting on the Northern Territory intervention says there's been a heavy investment on institutions focused on punishing criminal behaviour, while providing minimal services to help those who turn to crime in the first place: 'There's more policing in communities - more police stations and police posts - so more people will come to the attention of police, will be charged, get into the [criminal justice] process. But there's no corresponding in relation to other services-there's no youth diversion programs, there's no rehabilitation services, etc'.

Aboriginal prison rate continues to rise - is neoliberalism at play?

Chris Cunneen, Professor of Justice and Social Inclusion at James Cook University: 'Sentencing and imprisonment is not related to crime. It's a function of government policy. The fact that we're locking up more people is really about changes to law and practice'.

Keeping An Open Mind: The Importance of Informed Public Debate About Sentencing

Last night's address by Justice Chris Maxwell, President, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria, to ICJ Victoria Sentencing Forum.

Populist approach to violence hardly good public policy

Josh Gordon says Melbourne is a safe place to live and asks what's all the hysteria about.

Attorney-General caned for missing sentencing forum

A review of the public sentencing forum convened by the International Commission of Jurists.

Public voice is crucial, but must not dictate policy on sentencing

An op ed in the Herald Sun by Caroline Counsel, President of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Judge warns of court delays

A consequence of the coalition government's tough sentencing regime could be an increase in trial delays says County Court Chief Judge Michael Rozenes.

Law body cool on stiff public sentencing survey

Caroline Counsel, the president of the Law Institute of Victoria says that it's important that the on line sentencing survey results don't dictate sentences.

Review of the Smart Justice Prison Forum

Right Now, a volunteer, not-for-profit media organisation led by young people focused on human rights issues in Australia reviews our forum on why prisons are not the answer to reducing crime and disadvantage.

Public sentencing forum in Melbourne on 7 December

Be part of the debate about sentencing and the results of the on line sentencing 'survey'.

November 2011

New VLF report: Poor, powerless and in trouble with the law

A Victoria Law Foundation Fellowship report by Gary Sullivan, Principal Solicitor at West Heidelberg Community Legal Service. It examines the relationship between poverty and crime and proposes a number of criminal justice and welfare reforms.

Prisoners' children left with no support

Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) has released a research report- Next Generation on the Outside: 'When a family member is arrested and put within the prison system, the supports for the family are sometimes quite inadequate. Improvements are needed'.

Smart Justice launches youth group

Smart Justice for Young People was officially launched today. Spokesperson Tiffany Overall indicated that the group wants to develop policies in line with what the 'experts and young people themselves' say, rather than 'being driven by the media and waves of popular community opinion'. Also speaking at the launch was judge Paul Grant, president of the Children's Court. Access his presentation on the resources and publications page on the tab for Smart Justice for Young People.

Funding cut a setback in crime fight

Concerns over funding cuts to the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.

Ending aid for ex-prisoners 'false economy'

A Footscray-based program which has helped more than 154 women newly released from prison to get 16-week job placements and undertake training to help them find jobs has had its funding from the federal and state governments cut.

Police searches need new profile

Tamar Hopkins from the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre on why police should issue receipts to people routinely stopped in order to help cut racial targeting.

Come to the launch of Smart Justice for Young People

Smart Justice for Young People is a new youth-focused arm of Smart Justice that is committed to developing smart solutions to the most pressing justice issues for young people. Join us for the launch at 9am on Wednesday 16 November at the Law Institute of Victoria, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Please RSVP by 14 November to [email protected]

Sexual Assault: huge challenges and innovative responses

The Law Report asks if it is time to move beyond criminal prosecution for every sexual offence.

Two different states of justice

David Biles, criminologist, on his prediction for prison expansion in Victoria: 'For the past 30 or 40 years Victoria has been the envy of all Australian states for its low imprisonment rate and hence a smaller expenditure burden for the cost of its prison system. This means that Victoria has been able to devote proportionately more of its budget to health, education and infrastructure than any other state. This position is likely to be lost if the Government intention to increase the length of prison sentences is not modified'.

What does a humane and effective justice system look like?

Keynote address by Frank Vincent QC AO at a Jesuit Social Services and Public Policy Institute Symposium: 'The criminal justice system operating at its best is still a very blunt instrument that centrally relies on the threat and imposition of punishment to achieve its objectives. However, only a moment's thought is required to appreciate that there can be far better ways of reducing the incidence of the behaviours concerned, including dealing with the factors that have contributed to the engagement in such conduct in the first place'.

LIV Opposes Government Baseline Sentencing Proposals

The LIV today called on the State Government to rethink its commitment to baseline sentencing, saying it will not work in deterring crime.

October 2011

NSW: Breaking the prison cycle

An update from NSW where Attorney-General Greg Smith is implemeting some Smart Justice policies: 'This government does not believe success on law and order issues can alone be judged by how many people are locked up. We believe in policies that break the cycle of re-offending. Every prisoner should have an opportunity for rehabilitation and that is in the interests of the whole community'.

September 2011

What does a humane and effective justice system look like?

Jesuit Social Services invites you to a national justice symposium in Melbourne on 21-22 October.

Providing justice to sex assault victims takes more than trials

Marcia Neave, judge of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria and Michael Rozenes, Chief Judge of the County Court on why they support piloting and carefully evaluating a diversion scheme for young sexual offenders.

Resourcing parole and post-release services not more jails

Jesuit Social Services has emphasised the importance of parole in changing offending behaviour, reducing crime and, ultimately, improving community safety in its submission to SAC on the review of the adult parole system. 'The evidence is clear that offenders who have the prospect of parole are more likely to engage in treatments such as those relating to alcohol and other drugs, which means they are actually changing behaviours and are less likely to reoffend', says Chief Executive Officer Julie Edwards.

Baillieu warned on sentences

Judge Michael Bourke, chairman of the Youth Parole Board expresses concern in the Board's annual report about the impact of mandatory sentencing. The report also refers to a survey that exposes the extent of disavantage among young people in detention. It reveals that 55% of the survey group were victims of abuse, trauma or neglect and 66% had been suspended or expelled from school while 34% had mental health issues.

Prison shouldn't be a death penalty

Sam Biondo is the executive officer of the Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association. Commenting on a recently released Ombudsman's report, he says responsibility to better fund and resource the alcohol and other drug treatment sector in prisons lies with the Baillieu Government, which seems happy to increase prison numbers, but reluctant to implement evidence-informed health and rehabilitative initiatives which save lives and prevent harm.

Maximum justice needed

Frank Vincent, former judge of appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria responds to the question of whether judges and magistrates are out of touch with community expectations when sentencing offenders for serious crimes:'One thing is certain, and that is that the answer is not to be found in the responses to a hopelessly superficial newspaper questionnaire that trivialises the decision-making processes, or by reference to a half-dozen graphically and partially described cases. Rather the answer lies in careful analysis of what the courts actually do and the bases of sentencing'.

Advocacy group wants stricter rules for use of pepper spray

In a report on police use of force, the Human Rights Law Centre recommends the introduction of tighter rules to regulate police use of capsicum spray with an indeppendent review body such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to monitor compliance with the rules.

Judge calls for sex trials rethink

Some people accused of sex offences should be dealt with outside the traditional courts in a system similar to South Africa's truth and reconciliation commissions says Justice Marcia Neave. She says she's spoken to many sexual assault victims who were not concerned only with retribution- they also want a voice in the criminal justice system.

Drop in NSW prison population sees 3 prisons close

The NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith says the government will invest $46 million in programs to reduce reoffending.

NSW to introduce social benefit bonds to tackle disadvantage

The New South Wales government has announced it will introduce social benefit bonds. Under the scheme, private investors will purchase bonds and the money raised will then be invested in programs addressing social disadvantage. A return on the bonds will be paid when the program has met its objectives. The UK is currently trialling social bonds and in the US Barak Obama has announced a similar scheme in his 2012 budget.

Police receipt system proposed for greater transparency around searches

Police should be required to issue a written receipt to people they stop and question on the street, according to a Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre proposal to impose accountability checks on Victoria Police.

Public forum on why more prisons are not the answer to reducing crime and disadvantage

Join Smart Justice, the Centre for the Human Rights of Imprisoned People , Flat Out, the Federation of Community Legal Centres and Inside Access at a public forum in Melbourne on why more prisons are not the answer to reducing crime and disadvantage.

Concern over violence in the home

Hugh De Kretser from Smart Justice and other commentators on the law and order agenda on ABC1 TV's 7.30 Victoria.

Crime stats: Much greater risk of assault at home than train station

The chief executive of Domestic Violence Victoria Fiona McCormack says it's good news that more family violence is being reported. She says that family violence is a factor in over 50 per cent of substantiated child protection cases and it's a key driver in homelessness.

Ombudsman slams Victoria Police culture of secrecy

An Ombudsman's report reveals poor FOI practices, a less than open atttitude and a preparedness to conduct litigation without complying with Model Litigant Guidelines.

Hasty police recruitment sparks OPI concern

Recruiting 1700 police over four years is likely to deliver lower-quality recruits because it has been designed to cater to a 'strict political timetable' warns the OPI. The OPI says that the historic alignment of debates about police numbers with political law and order campaigns is problematic. Michael Strong, Director, Police Integrity cautions against assuming that more police alone will mean a more efficient or improved quality policing service.

Chief Justice proposes better voice for victims of crime

Chief Justice Marilyn Warren has mooted the idea of judges holding post trial victim debriefings to explain the sentencing process.

Smart action for community safety at VCOSS Congress 2011

Hugh De Kretser from Smart Justice and other community sector leaders and thinkers present the latest insights, approaches and challenges to addressing major causes of disadvantage, particularly in outer urban, rural and regional communities at the VCOSS Congress 2011 (session 2).

DoJ says sentencing reform main driver of prison growth

Commenting on the recently released Department of Justice annual repport, Opposition corrections spokeswoman Jill Hennessy has accused the government of committing to sentencing changes without grasping the implications for the prison population.

Prison crisis a threat to public health

According to the Age, the Ombudsman's report tabled in State Parliament this week paints a disturbing picture of a prison system unable to cope with the healthcare demands imposed on it, and a political leadership unwilling to provide the money and other resources needed to fix the problem.

August 2011

Media watch on the Herald Sun sentencing survey

Justice Lex Lasry, President of the Victorian chapter of the International Commission of Jurists, tells Media Watch that he hopes the state government is not proposing to adjust the various aspects of sentencing legislation on the basis of this flawed survey.

Alcohol services condemn fines

VAADA calls for specialist drug and alcohol workers to be deployed with police when people are arrested and fined for being drunk in a public place.

The court sends the clearest message of all

An opinion editorial arguing that while the courts face a challenge in dealing with extreme violence by minors, a government mindset skewed towards popular prejudice is unhelpful and runs the risk of turning us into a needlessly harsh and fearful society.

Court blow to juvenile sentence plans

In a recent decision, the Court of Appeal has ruled that general deterrence is excluded as a relevant sentencing factor for young people. This is at odds with the state government's plans to introduce mandatory sentencing for new offences such as gross violence which it says it is introducing to 'send a message' that violence will not be tolerated.

Chief magistrate hits tough-on-crime plan

Ian Gray, Victoria's chief magistrate descibes proposals for mandatory sentencing as a straitjacket on courts and the Department of Justice/Herald Sun on line sentencing survey as unlikely to reflect broad public consensus.

Same-old, same-old: report shows Indigenous children still being left behind

The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, 'Headline Indicators for Children's Health, Development and Wellbeing' 2011 has just been released. Helen Milroy is a Professor and Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at University of Western Australia. She says that by not addressing infant mortality, child abuse and the resulting trauma, we're condemning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to lifelong disadvantage, negative life outcomes and early death.

Judge slams state on controversial justice survey

Supreme Court Judge David Harper, president of the Judicial Conference of Australia has criticised the state government's new Herald Sun sentencing survey as deficient and open to abuse, and says it is unlikely to accurately reflect public opinion on punishing offenders.

Juvenile sentencing plan draws fire from legal heavyweights

Retired Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent QC and former New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery QC voice their opposition to the Victorian Government's plan to introduce minimum sentences.

July 2011

New research on community views of sentencing in Vic

The Sentencing Advisory Council (SAC) has released two new reports. The first report examines how punitive Victorians are while the second report looks at community views of the purposes of sentencing. According to SAC, the reports show that community views on sentencing are complex, and that giving people more information, such as specific case studies, allows more nuanced responses to survey questions.

Death rate puts prison system into focus

Peter Norden commenting on a recently released study in the Medical Journal of Australia which found that one recently prisoner dies every day in Australia due to suicide or drug overdose, 'I think in Australia we need to move beyond what I like to call a penal settlement mentality with respect to the use of imprisonment... the old approach of putting people in prison needs to be seriously assessed...And that is why the Productivity Commission and other similar organisations really needs to look at the huge expense both in terms of financial terms and human terms that the expanding Australian prison population presents to the community today'.

Reject cops set to be armed guards at Victorian railway stations

Victorian Council of Social Service CEO Cath Smith says it is vital railway guards are fully trained to interact with vulnerable people who regularly used public transport - young people, people with mental health issues, people with drug and alcohol issues, Aborigines, and culturally diverse groups.

Indigenous incarceration: jumping off the treadmill

The Law Report interview with the North Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) which helps people released from prison find education, work, and accommodation.

Bias claims as complaints rise against police

Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice calls for an independent police complaints investigation system that would be transparent, fair and in the best interests of Victorians and police.

Smart Justice on the 7pm Project on teen knife crime

Hugh De Kretser from Smart Justice talks to the panel about reducing knife carrying and knife violence.

Federal Attorney-General acts on indigenous jail shame

The Federal Government has committed $1.2m for youth diversion and prisoner rehabilitation programs as well as $750,000 for the Northern Territory Aboriginal interpreter service and a further $850,000 for Aboriginal legal aid. In making the funding announcement, Attorney-General Robert McClelland ackowledged that it is important to focus on developing a range of prevention and early intervention measures as part of criminal justice system.

June 2011

Early intervention programs needed to lower indigenous jailing rates

Father Chris Riley from Youth off the Streets responds to the release of the 'Doing time-Time for Doing' Senate report.

'Doing Time - Time for Doing' urges early intervention

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs recommends a focus on early intervention and the wellbeing of Indigenous children rather than punitive responses, to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples over-representation in the criminal justice system.

Treatment works, prisons don't: VAADA call for preventative and cost effective approach to crime

'We need to start addressing the true impacts of alcohol and drug use, not by increasing prison capacity, but by tackling the impacts on individuals, families and the wider community in more appropriate ways', says Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) Executive Officer Sam Biondo.

The irony of tough prison sentencing

'The idea that being tough on crime reduces the prison population is just plain wrong', says Amanda Watkinson, Service Innovation and Advocacy Director, spokesperson for Jesuit Social Services, on 3KND's radio program, 'Razor Sharp'.

Sending a boy to a man's punishment

Victoria Legal Aid's director of criminal law services Saul Holt is concerned about the introduction of two-year minimum sentences for 16 and 17-year-olds found guilty of a new offence of gross violence. 'The government's proposed definition of 'gross violence' which includes violent attacks in a gang of three or more - could capture children in a schoolyard brawl, where a child suffers minor injuries'.

Mandatory sentencing for violent teens not the answer

Criminal Law specialist George Defteros on why the mandatory sentencing plan for 16 and 17 year olds for a new offence of gross violence is wrong.

Vic youth sentencing plan a dud: chaplain

Peter Norden, vice chancellor's fellow at the Melbourne Law School has condemned a government sentencing policy which will introduce statutory two year minimum sentences for 16 and 17 year olds convicted of a new offence of 'gross violence'.

Let's not forget about crime's other heartland: the home

Farrah Tomazin in the Age: 'If the government really wants to get tough on crime, it should address what happens behind closed doors. For too many women and children, that's where violence is at its ugliest'.

Alarm at high cost of new jail

Ararat prison, currently being built as a public-private partnership (PPP) is not value for money for taxpayers according to a 'government insider'.

Ombudsman recommends independent body to manage crim stats

In an investigation into an allegation about the accuracy of crime statistics released before last year's state election, the Victorian Ombudsman says that crime statistics are crucial and recommends the establishment of independent body to manage the release of crime statistics.

Big holes in big lock-up scheme

A move away from "tough-on-crime" policies in Texas and other conservative US States should serve as a lesson for the Victorian government, argues Royce Millar in The Age.

Mega-jail plan for western suburbs

Royce Millar for The Age reports on government allocatation of funds for an environmental assessment of Crown land at Ravenhall, near Deer Park, a site approved by Labor for construction of a mega-prison in 2009.

More jails will not mean less crime

The Age editorial cautions that "the consequence of relying on incarceration with mandatory terms as the answer to crime is more prisoners, not greater public safety, because the experience of jail is more likely to harden young offenders than to rehabilitate them."

Super jails to cost billions

Victorians face a multibillion-dollar bill for a 'critical' prison expansion program, The Age reports.

Few smiles despite fall in Victorian crime rate

Victoria's overall crime rate has fallen by 4.1 per cent according to the latest Victoria Police statistics.

Law and order on both sides of the Murray

Transcript of Radio National's Law Report on some interesting law and order reversals in New South Wales and Victoria.

Baillieu guilty of a grave injustice

Greg Barns, director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance on why Attorney-General Robert Clark ought to rethink his plan for mandatory sentencing of young offenders convicted of serious assaults.

NSW and Victoria's 'tough on crime' confusion

Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards has has criticised Victoria's indiscriminate 'one size fits all' approach to sentencing and suggested the state's Attorney General should 'look north of the border as the new Liberal Government looks to reduce Australia's largest jail population by diverting offenders away from the prison system and reducing the rate of re-offending'.

Jailing children will just make them better criminals

Jordana Cohen from Youthlaw on why proposed statutory minimum sentencing breaches human rights and leads to avoidable injustices.

Sentencing expert criticises government's 'flawed' crime poll

Hugh de Kretser, spokesman for Smart Justice on the online sentencing survey: 'The survey method chosen seems designed to produce a result that supports the government's punitive sentencing policies. It's a great idea to listen to community attitudes to sentencing, but not through flawed methodology.'

Baillieu finds crime pays

The Age on the Coalition government announcement that it will conduct an on line survey to help set criminal sentences: 'This sort of nonsense may represent clever politics, but it's a shocking way to conduct public policy. You can almost guarantee the results will not accurately reflect public opinion because of the survey's ''self-selecting'' approach.'

Austalian Lawyers for Human Rights hits back at online sentencing plan

Stephen Keim SC, president of Austalian Lawyers for Human Rights has urged the Coalition Government to move past its current attempts at populism. He argues that online polling is the least reliable indicator of public opinion. 'Usually, it is those whose enthusiasm is charged by extreme views on a subject who respond, often more than once, to such polls. In addition, it is not unheard of that political parties and interest groups seek to skew such poll results for their own advantage.'

Online justice will undermine courts, says LIV

The Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) says the Coalition Government is undermining the judiciary by allowing a public on line survey to help set criminal sentences.

May 2011

Law bodies including Smart Justice urge crime stats overhaul

Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice: 'The Baillieu government raised concerns over police crime reporting when in opposition - its legacy should be setting up an agency so that public trust in crime reporting can be restored'.

Mandatory jail terms for young to cost lots, fail to cut crime

Greg Barnes, a director of Australian Lawyers Alliance on the Coalition Government's plans to introduce a new offence of 'gross violence' that will have a statutory minimum 2 year sentence for 16 and 17 year olds: 'Placing them behind bars, irrespective of the circumstances of each case and without having regard to their mental capacity at the time of offending, is simply a recipe for higher recidivism rates on release and the high cost to taxpayers that goes with that and the incarceration'.

Victoria likely to regret rush to lock 'em up

An Age editorial on why rehabilitation is the public's best long-term protection.

OPI report calls for independent crime stats body

In this report, the OPI finds that Victoria Police is unable to produce accurate crime clearance statistics primarily due to inherent flaws in the design of LEAP and the outmoded and flawed systems for entering data onto it, rather than the intentional wrongdoing of any ndividual.

Drug fight needs injection of reality

An Age editorial, noting the State Government's oppostion to safe drug-injecting rooms: 'The issue, then, for Victoria's politicians comes down to this- are they willing to ignore the evidence and condemn people to die for the sake of winning the ill-informed tough-on-crime vote?'

Knife crime: Recent data on carriage and use

In this overview, the AIC refers to limited information available on the nature, extent, cause, motivation and possible growth of knife carriage which it says highlights the need for improved data collection, along with the development of clearer evidence for what works to reduce knife carrying and knife offences.

New AIC report on preventing intergenerational crime

This Australian Institute of Criminology report concludes that to in order to prevent the cycle of crime, policymakers should focus their attention on reducing environmental risk through intervention programs targeting children known to be at increased risk of involvement in crime due to the criminality of their parents.

Don't rush to judge on sentencing

Justice David Harper of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Victoria on sentencing, public opinion and the media.

April 2011

On a path to prison, Jake, 16, found a bridge back to hope

YMCA's Bridge Project, helping young people get back into the community and reducing the re-offending rate gets State Government commitment to on-going funding.

YSAS tackling crime: new youth support service targeting young people

Youth Support and Advocacy (YSAS) launches a new early intervention service with $4.5 million in state government funding to divert young people from the criminal justice system by addressing the underlying causes of offending and anti-social behaviour.

Does prison deter?- New report from SAC

This Sentencing Advisory Council states that in light of empirical evidence outlined in its report, it is critical that the purposes of sentencing be considered independently-according to their own merits-and that caution be exercised when imprisonment is justified as a means of deterring all crimes and all kinds of offenders.

Creating a more just world for victims of rape

A Sunday Age editorial says that it's encouraging that the coalition government wants to continue work on sexual assault reform but warns that changing a deeply ingrained reluctance to report and prosecute sexual offences will take patience and persistence.

Police Commissioner says PSOs need more traning

Simon Overland concedes that the existing eight-week training period for PSOs is not enough for officers guarding train stations.

Building a drug treatemt system for the future- papers from the VAADA conference

The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) has released papers from its annual conference held earlier this year.

Reducing Offending for a Safer Victoria

A short paper from the Human Rights Law Resource Centre calling for strengthened evidence-based correctional and community policies and programs and an independent prison inspectorate to monitor and report on prison operations and conditions.

Why are deaths in custody rising?

'The bottom line is that we've seen a huge expansion of the whole prison system over the past two decades,' Chris Cunneen, Professor of Justice and Social Inclusion at James Cook University. 'More and more money is going into corrective services but it's going into expanding custodial environments rather than improving the conditions within those environments... so we not only have more prisons, we have larger prisons. That has impacts in terms of deaths in custody because you've got more reliance on electronic forms of surveillance rather than human contact-contrary to what the Royal Commission was arguing-[and] more prisoners to fewer staff.'

New report on iuvenile justice in Australia released

The Austalian Insititute of Health and Welfare has released a report on the juvenille system system, 2008-09. Key findings: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people continue to be over-represented, especially in detention and young people from areas of low socioeconomic status are more likely to be under supervision.

20 years since RCADIC-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are still dying in custody

Marking the 20 year anniversary of the report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda is calling for a new approach: 'We've simply got to stop locking up Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and put our resources and political will into trying proven alternatives like justice reinvestment'.

Concerns over armed guards for Melbourne trains

Director of YouthLaw, Ariel Couchman and others voice their concern on ABC radio.

Clever politics is not always good policy

The Sunday Age argues that safety on public transport is an important issue but that the Coaltion government should not be strictly bound by a populist and poorly targeted policy to place armed protective service officers on metropolitan train stations: 'Isolated stations with a handful of commuters do not need full-time armed guards. Increase security in some stations, with patrols on rail lines and retain some resources for intensive operations at identified trouble spots. Many other stations may be more tangibly improved by ticket sellers and working toilets'.

Metro orders rail cop review

Rail operator Metro is conducting a risk assessment on safety issues with armed protective services officers at train stations.

Armed guards won't make stations safer

The proposal to place two armed protective service officers on every metropolitan railway station after dark seems neither a wise use of public money nor an effective safety precaution according to this Age editorial. It cites the 2009 crime statistics which indicate that more than 45 per cent of assaults took place at just 10 of about 200 stations in the metropolitan network while at 116 stations there were no assaults at all.

Coalition rethink on specialist courts the right decision

An Age editorial on the decision by the coalition government to retain the specialist courts established under the previous government.

Are rail guards getting above their station?

Liberty Victoria president Spencer Zifcak on armed protective security officers at night time at train stations: 'My concern is that with only three weeks' firearms training, you might get a situation where these officers panic and someone gets shot. Public safety has to be the priority and properly trained police officers are the best option.'

Do we really want semi-automatic firearms in the hands of train patrol officers?

John Silvester comments on the plan to employ 940 extra protective services officers so that every Melbourne railway station will have two armed guards at night: 'Make no mistake, it is a disaster waiting to happen'

Vic teenager fined for carrying work related box cutter

A teenager who was searched by police at Frankston train station was fined for carrying a box cutter she says she used to open boxes at her night filler job at K-Mart. She is concerned that the $1000 fine will limit her job prospects and is seeking legal advice.

Vic police mistake disability for drunkenness

A tourist with cerebral palsy has made a complaint to the Office of Police Integrity after police arrested him because they assumed he was drunk.

Specialist courts to be retained in Vic

The legal community in Victoria welcomes the decision made by the Attorney-General Robert Clark to retain and expand specialist courts such as the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and the Koori Court.

VAGO audit on Victoria's problem solving courts: reducing re-offending

The Victorian Auditor-General's Office has investigated whether the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and the Court Integrated Services Program (CISP) are reducing reoffending. The report concludes that CISP demonstrably reduced reoffending while definitive conclusions cannot yet be made for the Neighbourhood Justice Centre because the evaluation sample (the number of people who have completed the program so far) was too small.

New SAC report on community views on alternatives to prison

Key findings from the latest Sentencing Advisory Council survey of 300 randomly selected Victorians show there is very strong support for using alternatives to prison for mentally ill, young or drug addicted offenders.

March 2011

'Tough on crime' a waste of time - let's be effective instead

David Indermaur, Associate Professor, Crime Research Centre at University of Western Australia: 'If we recognize the real tragedy of crime, we become more concerned about those directly affected by it, and choose at every point, to focus on what reduces suffering, not, what feels good. We do this, not because we don't care about the victims of crime but rather precisely because we do'.

NSW New A-G: Reoffending scourge must be tackled

The new NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith says that the coalition did not not indulge in the traditional law-and-order auction in the lead up to the election because many of the changes to criminal justice system have not worked, or have made aspects of the system far too complex.He cites sentencing as an example and argues that tougher sentencing has led to much confusion by courts and successful appeals.

NSW election: Law and order drum silent on both sides

In a refreshing change, an election that wasn't dominated by a law and order auction.

'Tough on crime' pledge becomes Clark's tall order

The new Victorian Attorney-General Robert Clark says his priorities are 'a safer Victoria, more respect for victims, reinforcing the independence of the courts, cutting court delays and improving access to justice'.

New AIC report on cost-benefit analysis uses in criminal justice research

The Australian Institute of Criminology has reviewed

Pressure on women's jails in Victoria

Corrections Commissioner Bob Hastings concedes that the Coalition government's tough on crime agenda will put pressure on the prison system which has seen the number of women prisoners in Victoria increase by almost 68 per cent over the last 10 years.

Criminologist warns on tough approach

University of Western Australia criminologist David Indermaur has warned that a lack of balance and independent debate along with politicians' fears of a soft-on-crime tag results in state laws that risked perpetuating the cycle of violent crime.

NSW Coalition propose drug treatment plan to cut reoffending rates

The Coalition says it will encourage greater use of non-custodial punishment for less serious offences if it wins the state election on 26 March.

Labour admits 'tough' penal policy failed to stem reoffending in the UK

'A focus on rehabilitation and reducing reoffending was seen as being soft on crime, when in fact it is effective in reducing crime,' concedes the UK Shadow justice secretary.

Cracking down on crime

A critique of the Coalition's law and order policies.

February 2011

Comments from the bench: Remand, prison and sentencing

County Court Judge Frances Hogan commenting at the recent Brosnan Breakfast: 'Early intervention in a rehabilitative way, rather than emphasis on punitive measures, is the only hope of saving many young people, not to mention the cost to the community approaching $100,000 per head per year, of having a person in prison'.

Paying the price for prisons- counting the cost of crime

Paul Papalia, MP, is arguing the case for justice reinvestment in Western Australia.

NSW Law Society wants rethink on tough on crime policy

The Finanical Review (4 February) reported that the Law Society of New South Wales is calling for a re-think of tough on crime policies in the lead up to the State election on 26 March.

New Victorian research calls for remand reform

A report by the Jesuit Social Services calls on the government to reform remand by resourcing more heavily in support options for young people outside of prison.

New AIC study shows calls for harsher punishment largely uninformed

A recently released study from the Australian Institute of Criminology reveals that the more informed the public is about judicial decisions, the more likely they are to agree with criminal sentences.

Proceed cautiously on sentencing reform says Interchurch Taskforce

The Victorian Interchurch Criminal Justice Taskforce is urging the Victoria government to undertake sentencing law reform gradually and advocates for the focus to be on rehabilitation and more broadly based prevention programs.

A long, hard look inside our jails would benefit all of us

An opinion article from the Age which argues that politicians who have campaigned on tough on crime platforms have distorted understandings of what imprisoning people can achieve.

January 2011

Three UK prisons to close in coalition justice reforms

UK justice secretary Ken Clarke's proposal to reduce the number of prisoners by around 3,000 over four years is in line with the thinking of prison reformers who argue that building more prisons is not a long term solution to reducing crime.

Victorian chaplain calls for prison reform

Victorian Prison Chaplaincy coordinator Jenny Hayes says that Victoria's prisons are overflowing with people who should not be in jail and is calling on the government to change imprisonment laws.

Right on crime-the conservative case for reform

According to the principles of a newly formed group of US Conservatives: 'we are known for being tough on crime, but we must also be tough on criminal justice spending'. The group 'Right on crimes' believes that prisons have the unintended consequence of hardening non violent, low-risk offenders-making them a greater risk to the public than when they entered. Right On Crime signatory Newt Gingrich says that the group's campaign represents a 'seismic shift in the legislative landscape and opens the way for a common-sense left-right agreement on an issue that has kept the parties apart for decades'.

Lock 'em up policy is bad for everyone

This Age editorial notes that the community is starting to understand more and more that locking up thousands of people each year at well over $50,000 each can be an incredible waste of money. As an alternative, it argues that investment in substance misuse and mental health programs will have a much needed impact on our ever increasing prison populations, and in turn improve the safety, health and well being of communities in the long term.

State can avoid prison cost

The Arkansas prison population has doubled over the past 20 years. In response, the Government is implementing bi-partisan, evidence based recommendations to increase public safety and reduce recidivism by strengthening community supervision. This will save $875 million through averted prison construction and operating expenses.

Prisons bursting at the seams

Commenting on the law and order debate in Western Australia, that state's Law Society president Hylton Quail has called for political parties to abandon popular punitivism: 'New law and order initiatives are very easy to get through Parliament, they often have bi-partisan support. They are extremely cheap because they simply require the stroke of a pen and don't require the commitment of any resources. But we can't go on like this. All of these laws are predicated on the assumption that the criminal justice system is able to change people's behaviour. The bottom line is that sentencing is at the end of the line. You have to address the cause of crime if you intend to really change things. We are simply not doing that.'

December 2010

Abolishing suspended sentences may increase crime

A media release from Smart Justice opposing a Bill to abolish suspended sentences which was introduced in the opening session of Parliament yesterday. The Baillieu Government has indicated that it wants to reduce violent crime, yet abolishing suspended sentences is counterproductive because it is likely to lead to a costly and unsustainable increase in the prison population without tackling the causes of crime.

The Age editorial on abolishing suspended sentences

The Age argues that the effect of the government's sentencing changes may well be to make Victoria a harsher, more fearful place than it is.

Stiff community and custodial sentences have not reduced youth reoffending

A report released by the UK National Audit Office (NAO) 'The Youth Justice System in England and Wales: Reducing Offending by Young People' has found that young people receiving more serious community sentences and custodial sentences are just as likely to reoffend today as they were in 2000. According to the NAO, more should be done to find out which interventions are the most effective in dealing with offending behaviour so that, in future, money can be directed at what works.

Reality will test tough-on-crime talk

According to this Age editorial, the incoming Coalition government will not find the solutions to crime quite so simple as its rhetoric: 'There are serious doubts about the effectiveness of costly law-and-order policies. The evidence of higher imprisonment rates elsewhere is that this does not cut crime and, indeed, reduces prospects for rehabilitation'.

Research reveals sentencing reform could save millions

The Institute for Public Policy Research in the UK is about to release a report which shows that there are potentially huge savings to be made by reforming the sentencing system so that more people are given community sentences and fewer sent to prison. The Re-Designing Justice report will be published in early 2011.

UK to reduce prison numbers

The Ministry of Justice has released a green paper which aims to end the rise in prisoner numbers and break the cycle of crime by tackling the causes of reoffending. The paper refers to the potential for greater gains through prevention, early intervention and diversion. 'Green Paper Evidence Report- Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders' (Cm 7972) is available at

Ted's crime crackdown may not be so tough after all

In this post election analysis of the coalition's law and order policy, Criminal Bar Association vice-chair Michael Cahill says 'Mandatory sentences are unjust because they impeach the fundamental principal that punishment must fit the crime'.

The fear factor

This Canadian study critically analyses the costs of its government's tough on crime agenda which comes at a time when crime rates have been reducing for over 20 years. It argues that tough measures do not produce public safety: 'Longer sentences, harsher prison conditions and the incarceration of more Canadians will return the system to a time when prisons were extremely violent, and when the end result was more rather than less crime. Recidivism is more likely to occur when offenders have been locked up for long periods with few programs of rehabilitation'. The study is also critical of the effects of mandatory minimum sentences which include removal of judicial discretion, failure to deter would be criminals and some unexpected negative consequences on the adminsitration of justice and Aboriginal people.

Baillieu legislation will mean more crime

The most important flaw in the Baillieu law and order plan, according to Greg Barns, Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, is that crime rates will not be reduced by sending more people to jail.

November 2010

Jump in state jail population

The Age reports that 'as law and order became a key theme of the election campaign, the number of Victorians behind bars grew by 169 or 3.8 per cent in the year - while in the rest of Australia, the number of prisoners grew by just four, or 0.02 per cent'.

Smart Justice criticises prison expansion plans

In this media release, Smart Justice criticises the Coalition promise to build 500 new prison beds at a cost of $268 million as a waste of taxpayers money. There are almost 40,000 households on the waiting list for public housing in Victoria, yet the coalition is spending $260 million on 500 prison beds, a construction cost of half a million dollars per prison bed, leaving aside the $90,000 per year average cost of housing a prisoner. Instead of 500 prison beds, this money could provide accommodation for over 1,000 families at risk of homelessness.

Coalition's Justice policy has high socioeconomic costs

According to Cath Smith, VCOSS CEO, the Coalition's announcement that they will introduce mandatory minimum sentences for a range of criminal offences will do nothing to improve community safety. 'Putting people in prison doesn't solve crime-or deal with the problems that lead people to commit offences. Instead we have to look at the issues that can lead to crime-poverty and disadvantage, homelessness, low levels of education, drug and alcohol and mental health issues to name but a few'. 'The evidence clearly shows that investing in key social supports such as mental health and drug and alcohol services is significantly more cost effective than prison and delivers safer communities and better outcomes for the individual'.

Prisons costly and ineffective

In a letter to the Herald Sun, Julie Edwards, CEO, Jesuit Social Services comments on the Coalition's law and order election policy and says that prisons are the least effective and most costly policy solution for community safety.

I'll make thugs pay, says Opposition

Comment in the Herald Sun on the Coalition's minimum sentence standards:The Community and Public Sector Union estimates that taxpayers could face a $2 billion bill with the Coalition's plans to build new prisons to accommodate its tough stance on law and order.

Libs call time on crime

Smart Justice comments in the Financial Review on the Coalition election promise to introduce minimum sentence terms: 'The court is best placed to decide the right penalty for an offence, taking into account the unique circumstances of each case. The Coalition policy is a step towards politicians imposing sentences, not courts'.

Libs plan rethink on jail sentences

The Coalition election policy to introduce minimum sentence standards is a backward step which will not reduce the crime rate according to Smart Justice.

Sentencing plans won't deter crime

More comment from Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice on the Coalition's plans for fixed minimum jail terms: 'They make it harder for courts to ensure that the punishment fits the crime and do nothing to reduce crime rates. If the Coalition was serious about protecting the community, it would focus on an issue like child neglect, which has been shown to be one of the major causes of crime'.

Coalition's set penalty plan could undermine judges

Commenting on the Coalition's election promise to introduce minimum sentencing standards, Steven Stevens, President of the Law Institute of Victoria in this media release says: 'There is no merit in a proposal which attempts to dictate to judges and magistrates, and is neither necessary or beneficial'.

Minimum sentence standards won't deter crime or protect the community

'Fixed minimum jail terms are a retrograde step towards mandatory sentencing in Victoria', said Smart Justice spokesperson Hugh de Kretser in a media release issued today in response to the Coalition's latest election policy announcement.

We're safer than ever, so why is this a law and order election?

Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice comments on the law and order debate in the lead up to the state election this Saturday: 'The government is spending millions of dollars to make people feel safe even though they are safe, which is how ridiculous the debate has got. While crime has been dropping 30 per cent over the past 10 years our prison population has gone up by about 50 per cent and it's not being driven by any crime wave, it's been driven by more punitive sentencing practices and a climate of this law-and-order auction'.

Reflections on crime and punishment

Peter Norden AO, in his John Barry Lecture:'More than 30 years experience in monitoring criminal justice policy has told me that there is little to be gained from a bidding war on who could be tougher on law and order, other than pure political advantage'.The full transcript is available at

Behind the times on prisons

Greg Barns, director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance argues that building more prisons is a waste of taxpayers' money as it does not reduce crime.

Fear of violence is killing Victorian culture

According to Paul Bird, Mission Australia's state director, Victoria's debate about violence and personal safety has impacted on young people.He refers to the latest national survey of young Australians, by Mission Australia, which reveals that 32% of young Victorians see crime, safety and violence as one of the biggest issues. In this article, he argues: 'We have a responsibility as adults-and our media and community leaders particularly so-to recognise that inflammatory talk about crime and violence, while good for circulation figures or votes, can be detrimental to us as a society'. The National Survey of Young Australians 2010 is available at  More >

LIV surveys parties on their election justice policies

In the lead up to the election, the Law Institute of Victoria (LIV) analyses the responses from Victorian political parties on 11 key justice issues.[PDF link is 1.02 MB]

Voters need to know how the child protection system is tracking

Lynette Buoy from the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare urges political parties to increase funding to the child protection system, including early intervention programs, to address issues such as the over-representation of young people, formerly in state care, in the criminal justice system.

The cost of 'tough on crime' policies

The cost of higher imprisonment rates at a time when the crime rate is actually decreasing.

Crime, prisons and community

In this fact sheet, the Inter Church Criminal Justice Taskforce considers issues of criminal justice, calling for a greater focus on families, education, mental health, decent employment, accommodation and the needs of victims. It argues that this will a make strong and safe Victoria, where prison is a last resort.

Sentencing plans won't deter crime

Lawyers Weekly reports on Smart Justice's opposition to the Coalition's plans for fixed minimum jail terms.

October 2010

Politicans reply to call to reduce the number of prisoners

The Victorian Heads of Churches urge politicians to shift the election debate to reducing the number of prisoners rather than increasing them. Read the responses from Bob Cameron, MP, Minister for Corrections andRobert Clark MP, Shadow Attorney-General.

Crime stats and the trouble with knives

Hugh de Kretser, spokesperson for Smart Justice on the ABC Law Report discussion on crime statistics and the trouble with knives.

September 2010

New crime stats undermine knife crime perception

The latest crime statistics, released today, throw into doubt the need for harsh new police powers and tougher penalties aimed at young people, according to Smart Justice in this media release.

The Sunday Age Editorial on Smart Justice

The Sunday Age argues that sentencing should be based on facts not myths and misconceptions about the criminal justice system.

June 2010

New report on personal safety and security on Melbourne's trains

Victoria Police has been successful in reducing crime on Melbourne's train system since 2007-08, according to the Auditor-General's report. However the approach to improve passengers' perceptions of safety has not been effective. The report recomends that Victoria Police set targets for reducing crime based on the evidence about crime trends and the likely effectiveness of its strategies to address these trends.

May 2010

State Government Going Overboard with Kids and Knives Searches

The Government is going overboard by taking away human rights of children and those with intellectual disabilities in its crack down on knife crime, according to Smart Justice in this media release.

A better way to punish troubled women

An article in The Age exposes the hidden social and financial costs to tough 'law-and-order' polcies on women in Victoria.

Smart Justice seeks to Counter the Law and Order Auction

The community is not well served if election-fuelled debate about law and order becomes an auction about who can be tougher on crime, according to a coalition of legal and community organisations in this media release.

Smart Justice Launch Speech by Hugh de Kretser

Speech presented by Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer of the Federation of Community Legal Centers and Smart Justice spokesman at the launch of the Smart Justice project on the 27th of May 2010.

Smart Justice Launch

The Smart Justice Project will be launched at 10.30-11.30am at the Law Institute of Victoria, 470 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Speakers are Mukesh Haikerwal, former AMA President, Steve Stevens, LIV President, Vickie Roach, human rights activist and former prisoner and Hugh de Kretser, Executive Officer, Federation of Community Legal Centres. For more information and to register attendance see:

Getting smarter about crime

In an Opinion piece published in the Sunday Herald Sun Hugh de Kretser heralds the advent of Smart Justice as a means of refocusing the criminal justice debate away from knee-jerk, vote grabbing policies.

Reoffending rates soar

Smart Justice comments in the Sunday Herald Sun about measures necessary to break the cycle of criminal behaviour: 'a more evidence-based approach to crime and an increased emphasis on rehabilitation of prisoners will see reoffending rates drop dramatically.'

Prisons and police spending the wrong priorities in today's 'disappointing' budget (Sourced from

The following media release was taken from the Victorian Council of Social Service's website.

State Budget: police and prison spending 'wasteful' (Sourced from

The following media release was taken from the Federation of Community Legal Centre's website.

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