Sending more people to prison for less serious crimes makes me a big tough leader. Please take me seriously? Please?

For someone to think state Liberal leader Ted Baillieu’s plan to scrap suspended sentences was a good idea, they’d have to:

  • be completely ignorant as to the purpose and function of suspended sentences;
  • have bought the utter lie that judicial sentencing is more lenient than public opinion;
  • believe that judges who suspend sentences are idiots who love criminals;
  • think parliament a better determinant of an appropriate punishment in a given case than a court that has heard all the evidence; and
  • desperately want our prisons filled to the brim with lower-level offenders being trained in more serious crime.

From the triumphant article by the newspaper that’s done the most to mislead the public on the subject of criminal sentencing:

EXCLUSIVE: CRIMINALS including arsonists, rapists and armed robbers would no longer escape jail under a Coalition plan to scrap suspended sentences.

Also, say, a mother who’s lost her license and then driven whilst suspended to pick up a stranded child. And any number of other minor offences for which mandatory sentencing now imposes a ludicrously harsh jail term.

He said suspended sentences were part of the Brumby Government’s soft-on-crime approach.

Suspended sentences have been around for a lot longer than the Brumby government, Ted. They existed throughout the entire term of the Kennett government, having been reintroduced back in 1986. (They also existed between 1915 and 1958 through any number of conservative governments.)

“They pretend that an offender is serving a term of imprisonment, when in fact they are living free in the community.”

It’s true that suspended sentences don’t really involve any restrictions other than that the offender not commit any more crime – but alternative options, such as home imprisonment, are also on your list of things to dismantle!

“Many of those released on suspended sentences go straight back to committing further crime.”

If they do, then they go to jail for the original offending, plus getting sentenced on the new offences. The original sentence is no longer “suspended”. Part of the point of suspending a sentence is to test whether the person really has reformed or not – if they haven’t, then they’ll be going in.

Mr Baillieu acknowledged his approach would cost more, with extra prison beds and warders…

If half these criminals spent six months behind bars, it would add about $100 million to the state’s annual prison costs.

What’re the links between the Liberal Party and the prison contracting companies?

Private prisons are a fantastic profit-making venture. The people paying us don’t actually care how badly we treat the people we’re supposed to be looking after, just as long as nobody finds out about it. Seriously, state government, listen to Ted – he knows what’s good for us. I mean you. Yeah, you.

If you want to see just how well chucking more people in prison works, check out California. Its massive payout to private prison companies has pretty much bankrupted the state.

In 2007-08, more than 650 serious criminals were given wholly or partially suspended sentences by the County and Supreme courts – almost a third of all sentences.

They included eight arsonists, seven rapists, 30 armed robbers, 59 drug traffickers, 33 pedophiles, 169 violent offenders, five stalkers and 10 killer drivers.

Another 6200 were given suspended sentences by Magistrates courts.

And 100 more were put on home detention.

So, to summarise, 5650 people (6200 + 100 – 650) who were not “serious criminals” under the Herald Sun’s list would be going to jail under Ted Baillieu’s proposals. Of course “Ted Baillieu to imprison less serious criminals and train them in serious crime” doesn’t quite send the message the Hun is so desperate to send, does it?

UPDATE: The Hun’s ambiguous poll on the subject:

I think they’re assuming that a “yes” vote means changing your vote TO Baillieu. But that isn’t the only possibility…

ELSEWHERE: Talking of the corrupting influence of private prisons, remember those two judges in Lucerne, Pennsylvania who were taking kickbacks from local prisons to send more children there? Latest reports from their trial reveal that one of them det’ermined the length of sentence for at least one 14 year old based on the number of birds perched on a ledge outside the courtroom. Seriously.

Another reason why the profit motive should be kept a LONG WAY from the justice system.

22 responses to “Sending more people to prison for less serious crimes makes me a big tough leader. Please take me seriously? Please?

  1. Well said Jeremy, I just heard this on the radio and was astounded at such a knee-jerk populist reaction from Baillieu.

  2. I dunno, suspended sentences do seem a bit lenient, in some cases at least. The fact that carrying a knife nowadays often ends up in a suspended sentence for example.
    Dont get me wrong, often suspended sentences can be ok, but violent behaviour should never lead to a suspended sentence.

    Whats more, some low level crimes result in suspended sentences, whilst even lower level crimes resut in things like 100 hours community service.

    Surely that’s not right. A suspended sentence after all, is suspended….

  3. You’d need to show me specific cases where a term of imprisonment was inappropriately suspended – the Hun’s analysis doesn’t take any factors other than the charge itself into account.

  4. All criminals = Carl Williams
    All sentences for this kind of person should = locked away for the public good
    All suspended sentences meaning that Carl Williams is free to roam the street = bad.

    Half-arsed reductionist thinking.

    I’ve always had a grudging respect for Bailieu, but he’s lost me here.

  5. Is this conviction that the judiciary should cede sentencing to governments a recent phenomenon? It seems to me every opposition bangs on about breeding criminals tougher sentences without any consideration of the consequences. Knee-jerk populism in relation to these matters usually creates unjust and ineffective laws with detrimental long term results.

  6. Desperate Ted knows that politicians rarely lose support by being too tough on crime. Packed prisons appeal to the idiot factor or at least to the average Herald-Sun reader. We can’t trust experienced judges and magistrates to make informed decisions in criminal cases. Just because they have devoted their careers to the law doesn’t mean they know anything about it. Certainly not as much as a Murdoch journalist or ‘Throw away the key of Melbourne’.

    There are few votes in trying to divert offenders from prison. The Lehrer Newshour last night reported that budget cuts in Oklahoma include the ‘elimination of education and re-entry programs for prison inmates, a gang prevention and intervention program that reduced drive-by shootings by as much as 61 percent,’ and ‘cuts to mental health services for low-income adults.’ Other US states propose similar budgetary tightening. I bet private prison operators in the US are rubbing their hands and planning for expansion. It’s an ill wind…

  7. It’s a phenomenon that has spread to Victoria from NSW, where it has been prevalent for about 20 years – there’s an election coming, let’s have a contest to see who can come up with the toughest on criminals. Mandatory sentencing, long prison terms for wearing socks with sandals, throw it all into the mix. And the Murdoch press have always been the cheerleaders.

  8. As for that poll – 3 out of 4 people will change their vote?? What kind of people vote in these polls?

  9. At the Herald Sun? Liberal voters, mainly, so the news that they’re willing to change their vote shouldn’t console Ted all that much.

  10. I think all but the most ardent Tories would admit that the State Libs in Victoria are desperate. They have nothing up their sleeves except law and order. It comes at a convenient time for them – they can appeal to readers of the Hun who believe the fear campaign on crime, and to some soft lefties who might think the Libs actually care about bashed Indians.

    The other side of the coin is that diversionary tactics often fail, in that you inadvertently bring more people into the justice system, and for lesser crimes. There is an argument for sentencing to be made more clear, at the very least.

  11. They would also have to believe that prison is an effective deterrent to crime.

    Fifty thousand prisoners come out of prison each year. Two thirds of them will be back inside within four years…

    Punishment doesn’t change people. It satisfies a public and certainly a political desire for revenge, but that never solved the problem of crime and criminality. We’ve had two hundred years of locking people up as punishment and it hasn’t diminished crime and criminality at all.


    On the private prison front, Victoria has had (may still have?) the highest percentage of privately housed inmates in the world. Ted is trying to outbid his opponent in the get tough on crime stakes.

  12. I think Judges are best able to make such decisions. After all as Jeremy has pointed out they hear all the evidence and are also aware of penalties given for similar crimes.

    The thing is that politicians hit easy targets and convicted criminals are easy targets.

    I do think that jail time has a place in our society however I do not always think it appropriate. Judges, social workers, psychologists etc etc are best able to determine what is appropriate and what will work best. I’d like to see our justice system more rehab orientated rather than punishment orientated. Many people who commit crimes will benefit from rehabilitation and in the end not only the individual benefits but the whole community through a decrease in the likely-hood that a convicted criminal will re-offend.

  13. Is there mandatory sentencing in Vic? If not, then watch out as this is usually the next step police state types take when they get really desperate.

  14. Ahhhh…must be an election coming up. Laura Norder is doing whatever needs to be done to become an issue

  15. If there was ever a reason for a facepalm, this is it.

  16. Lynda Hopgood

    Aussie Unionist – yes, election in the wind. Same over here in SA. Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond recently had herself tasered to show how tough on crime she is. Or something.

    I’m hoping that Tony Abbott will try the same stunt. I’ll happily do the deed 🙂

  17. I wish all politicians would taser themselves…every day. ha

  18. phyllis.stein

    It’s a cunning plan. Abolishing suspended sentences is phase 1. Phase 2 could include charging prisoners for their incarceration. Pay To Stay is an exclusive option for wealthy inmates in America, but a more widespread application here just might pay dividends.

  19. Part of the point of suspending a sentence is to test whether the person really has reformed or not – if they haven’t, then they’ll be going in.

    If this is true then suspended sentences should never be applied in the case of a conviction for violent crime – particularly rape. I’d be somewhat unhappy if my mother or sister were the one who paid the price for this “let’s see if they do it again before we saction them” judicial experiment.

    Personally I think Baillieu’s idea has merit, although at the moment he appears to have used far too broad a brush.

  20. Pingback: Suspended sentences to go; politicians do Hun’s bidding « An Onymous Lefty

  21. Pingback: Poll too ambiguous to answer – Pure Poison

  22. Pingback: But what is the State doing for his victims? « An Onymous Lefty

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