Monday, December 08, 2008

The failure of "tough on crime" in NSW

The Sydney Morning Herald had a piece yesterday on the results of New South Wales' "tough on crime" policies: spiralling costs, a new prison every two years, higher rates of recidivism as "soft" rehabilitation programs are ignored in favour of building extra jail cells, and no measurable effect on crime rates. And National wants to bring these policies here? It's simply madness.

Instead of trying to lock more people up for longer, denying bail in an effort to impose pre-trial punishment, and abolishing parole out of a sense of mindless viciousness, we should instead be investing seriously in rehabilitation, post-release monitoring, and in keeping young offenders out of prison. These policies are effective, in Australia and elsewhere. Unfortunately, they also cost money, which National would rather give to its rich mates as tax cuts or to its private sector cronies to run new jails, and they will be difficult to sell for a public fed a steady diet of promises to be ever tougher on crime. And that is the real problem: effective policy does not get politicians re-elected. So instead we're caught in a trap, where politicians compete to be ever more counterproductive, and anything which might actually be effective at reducing crime rates or reoffending is derided as "soft". Like I said, it's simply madness...