Category Archives: Crime and Punishment

“Austerity”: how to make a justice system cost more, be less just, and increase crime

Just a reminder to idiotic state governments who insist on tinkering with criminal justice by slashing legal aid and changing the law to send people to prison for longer without funding appropriate rehabilitative services: you are making things worse.

You are making offenders worse.

And you are costing the taxpayer a lot more money.

A reminder today from a UK judge of how slashing legal aid actually costs more money in wasted court time (h/t Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes):

What I find so depressing is that the case highlights the difficulties increasingly encountered by the judiciary at all levels when dealing with litigants in person. Two problems in particular are revealed. The first is how to bring order to the chaos which litigants in person invariably – and wholly understandably – manage to create in putting forward their claims and defences. Judges should not have to micro-manage cases, coaxing and cajoling the parties to focus on the issues that need to be resolved. Judge Thornton did a brilliant job in that regard yet, as this case shows, that can be disproportionately time-consuming. It may be saving the Legal Services Commission which no longer offers legal aid for this kind of litigation but saving expenditure in one public department in this instance simply increases it in the courts. The expense of three judges of the Court of Appeal dealing with this kind of appeal is enormous. The consequences by way of delay of other appeals which need to be heard are unquantifiable. The appeal would certainly never have occurred if the litigants had been represented. With more and more self-represented litigants, this problem is not going to go away. We may have to accept that we live in austere times, but as I come to the end of eighteen years service in this court, I shall not refrain from expressing my conviction that justice will be ill served indeed by this emasculation of legal aid.

This is even worse in criminal law and family law, in which litigants are even less knowledgeable about the law and the consequences of errors are even more serious.

Meanwhile, judges in Victoria, confronted yet again by another product of a prison system that is focused on “punishment” and pays mere lip service to rehabilitation, ask why we’re bent on making people who’ve committed crimes in the past worse:

The prison system is failing society by making young offenders more anti-social and increasingly likely to commit violent crimes after their release, the head of the Victorian Court of Appeal has warned.

Calls made four decades ago to reform the system and encourage rehabilitation had not been heeded, three judges said after hearing an appeal against the sentence of a youth with a long history of violence, who had been in and out of the juvenile justice system when he committed an unprovoked knife attack in 2011.

”The community would still ask today why the prison system has to be so antisocial in operation, why it cannot be improved so that people for whom there is a prospect of reformation are given a real opportunity for self-improvement,” said Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell and Justices Marcia Neave and Stephen Kaye. ”Time and again courts are told that correctional authorities are simply not adequately resourced to provide the sorts of facilities which are essential if those in prison – many of whom have very serious psychological and behavioural problems – are to be meaningfully rehabilitated and assisted so that, when they are released, they will have some real prospect of reintegration into the community.”

Fortunately, the politicians know that they can completely ignore the above because the mass-market media will almost completely ignore it.

And in the meantime we all pay more to make things worse.