Effectiveness Of Australian Custodial Sentencing Criminology Essay

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Australian penal establishments are perpetrating violence, increasing crime waves and ultimately, prison is a recruitment centre for an army of criminals. Through critically analysing Michael Foucault's interpretation, "Prison is a recruitment centre for the army of crime. That is what it achieves. For 200 years everybody has been saying, 'Prisons are failing: all they do is produce new criminals.' I would say on the other hand, 'They are a success, since that is what has been asked of them" we can establish the effectiveness of custodial sentencing within the Australian justice system. To determine the strengths and weaknesses of custodial sentence a thorough analysis and evaluation of statistical evidence will provide recommendations to further enhance the justice system and reduce the overflowing prison facilities.

There are five main theories of punishment for an offender that can be applied using custodial sentencing. The crown courts impose punishments upon an offender for retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, denunciation, and/or prevention. Prison has been characterised as a 'complex social institution,' arguing punishment is a mechanism designed to deal with criminals in a lawful administrative manner. Punishment may be defined as anything that is unpleasant, a burden, or an imposition of some sort on an offender.

The first theory of punishment refers to retributive theory of penal law. Retribution is a very primitive way of punishing an offender; this entails the concept of 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth'. According to some theories of ethics, punishment should be delegated in accordance to the severity of the crime committed. The theory of retribution is defined as the theory of which the punishment fits the crime, with a biblical ideology that states that the offender should suffer the same fate as the victim. The crown court determines a proportionate act of reprisal.

The second theory of punishment, the rehabilitation stage offers psychiatric care through emphasis on treatment and therapy of criminals through psychology to manage the behaviour of offenders and correct their social behaviour to enable the return into society as productive, ethical people. Rehabilitation is a popular option for juveniles to reform and re-enter.

The third theory, deterrence has two functions. Initially, encouragement is offered to the offender to correct their behaviour and deter the offender recommitting. Secondly, deterrence is used to deter anyone in society committing a crime of similar severity.

The fourth theory of punishment, denunciation, is exercised to subtly inform and educate society of appropriate behaviour and the importance of staying within the rights of the law. Furthermore, the offender obtains an understanding of societies condemnations of the crime committed, as it denounces the behaviour (LexisNexis, 2002).

The fifth theory of punishment is focused around prevention. To prevent an offender endangering society the crown court removes the offender from the community. Generally, an offender that is convicted for a dangerous or violent crime will be removed to enable the safety of others as they pose a threat to society. The offender is released when deemed safe.

The Crown Court refers to Section 9 of the 'Penalties and Sentencing Legislation Amendment Act 1993', to adjudicate calculations for the term of imprisonment on the foundation of the five theories. The fundamental purpose of the legislation is to reflect the five theories of punishment. In referring to appendix 4, it is evident the theories of punishment are foregrounded a) through e) in order of retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, denunciation and prevention. (ALII, 2003)

The Australian Institute of Criminology assists in providing statistical evident relevant to the study of crime rates and criminal justice within Australian penal complexes. The facilities are primarily contributing to crime rates by nurturing criminals and their actions. The Crown Court uses custodial sentencing to reduce crime rates, there are many positives with this method of punishment. Evidently, custodial sentencing stops criminals committing further crimes that would place civilians in danger. Thereby, the public protection is enhanced. Appendix 3 confirms a reduction in criminal offences relating to property left, with just over 800 000 incidents recorded in 2008.

However, prisons are an enormously costly failure for reducing overall crime with appendix 1 illustrating the unsuccessful facilities. Unfortunately, there are high percentages of Australians being imprisoned for reoffending. Further statistics foreground that ex-prisoners have the premier reoffending rates, with an approximate 66% being rearrested within the consecutive three years after release (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006). These all expense paid facilities are costing our taxes. "The cost per prisoner per day in secure correctional centres was $147.60 compared to the cost of supervising an offender in the community (per day) of approximately $10.71" (Frank Rockett, 2006).

Do the disadvantages overshadow the advantages?

Criminologists have stated the disposition of Australia's prison system, declaring billions of dollars are being poured into jails that are unsuccessful in reforming offenders and enriching community safety. Civilians fear the punishment for crime; criminals refer to these facilities as home. Community satisfaction is achieved by imposing hardships on offenders by inflicting a "get tough" policy. Proposals of mandatory sentencing, three strikes, truth-in-sentencing and zero tolerance policies result in lengthened sentences. How will this stop crime? It is expected, harsher penalties will deter criminals. Nevertheless, criminal's mentality of "I won't get caught" prevents a reduction in crime, and overflows prison cells with those unlucky enough to be caught. In theory, overflowing prisons is a result of more criminals being put away and less on the streets, making the streets safer.

Imprisonment should be the last option. A solution needs to be incorporated into the Australian Justice System. The best way to "fix" overflowing prisons is to built more. But, with the current economy, it is far too expensive to build and facilitate. Furthermore, it does not stop crime.

To manage prisons effective, nonviolent offenders and drug addicts should not be incarcerated. They should be required to benefit the community, to increase social integration. Imprisoning drug dealers does not reduce drug crimes. The demand for the product is still present, and therefore opens business for youths and expands their long-term economic opportunities (Kleiman 1997).

Reducing re-incarceration rates; accessible, free post-release programs should be available to assist in re-integrating with society utilising counselling and support.

Alas, there is no simple solution to moderate crime rates. Society needs to enforce rules and regulations on youths to stop adolescents committing crime. Individuals require an understanding of societies view on criminal actions.

Are prisoners learning prejudice in prisons? Sadly, overflowing prisons and increased crime waves are reality. Prisoners are being placed in an institute of crime, integrating with criminals convicted of inferior crimes. Consequently, prisoners are being taught the behaviours necessary to survive the life "inside". Thus, aspects of incarceration produce criminals. With prisoners reoffending post- release, the Australian Justice System is failing at a disappointing rate.

Prisons are a costly failure and should be obliged to change somewhat. The duty of care for society is far greater than the luxuries for wrongdoers. In direct result, law pertaining to custodial sentencing needs to be modified.

Appendix 1


Australian Institute of Criminology.

Australian Crime: Facts and Figures.

Appendix 2


Australian Institute of Criminology.

Australian Crime: Facts and Figures.

Appendix 3


Australian Institute of Criminology.

Australian Crime: Facts and Figures.

Appendix 4

Section 9 of the Penalties and Sentencing Acts

Section 9.1: The only purposes of which sentences may be imposed on an offender are:

To punish the offender to an extent or in a way that is just in all the circumstances; or

To provide conditions in the court's order that the court considers will help the offender to be rehabilitated; or

To deter the offender or other persons from committing the same or a similar offence; or

To make it clear that the community, acting through the court, denounces the sort of conduct in which the offender was involved; or

To protect the Queensland community from the offender.


Australasian Legal Information Institute.

Reference List