None . . Page.. 738 ..
I think members of the judiciary in the ACT would be the first to admit that sentencing policy in our courts is profoundly influenced by the nature of the options available to the bench. I think members would be ready to admit, for example, that the absence of correctional institutions for full-time detention within the ACT has sometimes caused people to be sentenced in a way in which they would not be sentenced if that same crime had occurred, and sentence was being passed, in New South Wales. That kind of judicial decision-making dependent on the lack of facilities is a very unfortunate way to construct a good policy for corrections. It is much better to have an appropriate range of facilities, to the extent that we can afford them in a small jurisdiction like the ACT, and then build up over a period appropriate understanding of the value of those options and get judges and magistrates to use them as appropriate to deal with particular cases in a way that is constructive and meets the problem of the system.
I was encouraged to hear particularly Ms Tucker's comments about the value of this option, and I was also encouraged to hear her comments about the ACT having a prison of its own. It might at first blush be easy to see this as a desire by the ACT, or even by the ACT Liberal Government, to be punitive on its own part rather than having it being punitive through the agency of New South Wales. That is not the reason we have long supported an ACT institution. We simply take the view that the New South Wales prison system is not conducive towards rehabilitation or a constructive way of dealing with the ACT's problems. We can have that solution only by having our own institution within our own control. I firmly believe that there are much better ways of doing things than the way they are done in the New South Wales prison system, and we must explore that option. It has never been a high priority in terms of time; it has always been a matter that would take a number of years to put in place. I am encouraged by what I hear in the chamber, and I believe that there will be support for the Government to explore ways in which we can advance this process to the next stage.
Periodic detention is a very important way of indicating that people should suffer some kind of penalty for particular acts they have committed through sentencing in our courts, without necessarily having to be sent a long way away to New South Wales and possibly finding that their process of reintegrating themselves into community life and their own families and workplaces is hampered by the fact that they have gone so far away. For example, a person who has committed an offence such as fraud - defrauding a company or whatever - and who might otherwise have a stable relationship or be able to get a job of some kind is severely disadvantaged by having to lose their job, quite possibly have their relationship disrupted, lose contact with members of their family and their friends, and be therefore potentially on a slope downwards towards behaviour that will perpetuate the problems that gave rise to the sentence in the first place. We need to be exploring options of people remaining within the community to some extent, while imposing a real penalty on them.
For Australians the weekend is a very important part of their lives - not for politicians, perhaps, because our weekends do not work like ordinary weekends, but for others in the community. If you know that at the end of the working week you have to go off to an institution and spend your time doing community work under the supervision of the institution you have gone into, that is a quite significant penalty, which in a number of cases will be an appropriate penalty for certain sorts of crime.