A large amount of money was set aside for more prison beds in last night’s state budget… still more money for the court system, but I can’t find mention of any for alternative forms of criminal justice.
We have just over 96% occupancy in Victoria’s prisons at the moment. In the ten years between 1997 – 2007, the prison population in Victoria increased by 1750 to 4183 people [41.8% increase]. You’d think we must have had an explosion of crime in the state, but actually the rate of crime per head of population has decreased 23.5% since 2001.
The greatest increase in imprisonment is for those convicted of assault or motor traffic offenses.
[source: Statistical Profile of the Victorian Prison System, Department of Justice]
The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country. A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry of all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if only you can find it in the heart of every person – these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.