Sensible Sentencing’s Crime Policies Increasingly Confused

Published: Wed 5 Oct 2011 11:01 AM
Sensible Sentencing’s Crime Policies Increasingly Confused
“Garth McVicar’s claim that the recent crime drop will silence Rethinking Crime and Punishment, and is evidence that the ‘tough on crime’ policies are working, is highly confused thinking” says Kim Workman, of Rethinking Crime and Punishment.”
“Firstly, the crime rate has been dropping since the mid 1990’s – it is not a new thing. Sensible Sentencing has been in denial of that fact since it started.
“Secondly, and until earlier this week, he has complained that the government is ‘soft on crime’ and that approaches promoted by Rethinking are consistent with the “failed ideologies and policies of the past”. He now attributes the crime drop to government’s “tough on crime” policies and “three strikes.” Which is it to be?”
“He has an even bigger problem – the Police attribute much of the decline to the diversion of young people and adults away from the criminal justice system – an approach which Sensible Sentencing opposes. In the 2011-12 Justice Sector Forecast, the Police report that the increased use of diversion was a major factor in last year’s 6.7% drop in the crime rate. The Policing Excellence programme has seen a greater use of diversion, restoring the restoring the practice to levels last seen in the early 2000’s. The programme is expected to deliver a 19% reduction in prosecutions by 2014-2015.”
“Garth will have difficulty describing this approach as “tough on crime” Sensible Sentencing’s youth policy would have both young people and adults thrown to the Courts at the first available opportunity.”
“He has a second problem. The current prison population is about 500 under the predicted muster and the sentenced population is forecast to fall from 6,841 to 6,436 (-5.9%) and the remand population from 1,867 to 1,729 (-7.4%) by 2021. The drop in the crime rate is matched by a drop in the imprisonment levels. Sensible Sentencing’s policy position is that they way to reduce crime is to increase the levels of imprisonment. This development blows that theory out of the water.”
“Internationally, there is no clear correlation between crime and imprisonment rates. Canada has like the USA, a steadily declining crime rate, but its imprisonment rate is around one fifth of the USA, and lower than ours.”
“The third problem, is that Garth will no longer be able to call for tougher sentences because of the rising murder rate. In fact, the overall murder rate has been declining (on the whole although not year by year) since 1994. Dr Gabrielle Maxwell reports that the new murder rate of 0.77 per 100,000 is lower than it has been since 1978 when it began to rise sharply to peak levels in the later 1980s and early 1990’s. Since then it has been, like the overall crime rate, on its way down.”
“Murder statistics have never been Garth’s strong point. In his book “Justice” he claims that in 1951 when he was born, there were two murders. There were actually five – but it was still a good year. A year earlier there were 12; a year later there were 10. It’s not the year by year numbers that matter, it’s the trend over a 10 to 20 year period.”
“With its crime policies in disarray, Sensible Sentencing may need to ‘rethink’ its manifesto.”

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