Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 13 Hansard (26 November) . . Page.. 4723 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
Wales, then he should have provided that information rather than basing important legislation on what is sometimes exaggerated reporting of a few high-profile cases.
This is not the first time that we have debated sentencing in this place. I can assume, as we get closer to the next election, it won't be the last. I note today that the Chief Minister has put out his platform for sentencing reform.
I said when we discussed sentencing guidelines last year that sentencing guidelines have not necessarily resulted in tougher sentences and there were many instances where they had completely the opposite effect. Punishment seems to be the name of the game, despite countless research demonstrating that this has little or no effect on the rate of crime. If we seriously want to reduce the incidence of crime we need to get serious about tackling the causes of crime and rehabilitating those in the criminal justice system rather than simply locking them up for longer periods of time. The punish, punish, punish solution that Mr Stefaniak and the Liberals have become wedded to only results in a higher prison population.
Since the government has yet been unable to find a suitable site for the prison in the ACT, this approach further adds to the strain that families of ACT prisoners have to face and again increases the chances of members of those families finding themselves more likely to fall into the clutches of the criminal justice system. I think when we are looking at these sentences we do really need to seriously consider the message that we are sending and look at how the cycle of crime starts with those who are caught up in the juvenile justice system. They might get done for a few small things, get sent to prison and actually learn more criminal behaviour while they are there. They come out; they have turned 18; they think crime is the way to go. They commit another offence; they go back to prison; and their whole family is impacted, their friends are impacted.
We are not actually working to rehabilitate these people; we are actually just putting them on the cycle of the criminal justice system. That seriously needs to change, and I don't think it will change if we support a piece of legislation that just makes them stay in jail for longer.
If we are to seriously debate law and order we would be looking at legislation that provided a greater emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation, not legislation that simply seeks to increase the prison population. We should be looking at measures that improve the lives of people so they aren't tempted to turn to crime. Let us improve health and education, proven factors that significantly reduce crime rates. Let us build a safe injecting room and put in place other programs to break the cycle of drug-dependent crime, which we know is so high here in the territory. But let us have a serious debate about the serious way to reduce crime.
I again note the government's intention to introduce its own sentencing reform legislation next year, with some very welcome reforms particularly in regard to victim impact statements and consolidation of sentencing legislation. But I won't be supportive of any attempts by the government, the opposition or any other members at scaremongering, outbidding each other on being tough on crime. That won't be a positive outcome for our community and it won't help those who are suffering as victims of crime.