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Truth In Sentencing Expensive And Ineffective

Minister of Justice Phil Goff today released two reports on the Truth in Sentencing Bill promoted by Hon Richard Prebble which show that the proposal is vastly expensive and unlikely to reduce crime.

“The ‘truth in sentencing’ regime proposed by Mr Prebble would lead to an increase of 55% in the prison population. This increase would carry with it an extraordinary cost of $838 million over 3 years,” Mr Goff said.

“Yet there is no evidence that nearly a billion dollars spent in this way would actually reduce crime rates. Overseas experience shows rising crime trends return, after the one-off effect of taking more criminals out of circulation at any one time works through the system.

“In contrast, the same billion dollars invested in early intervention, crime prevention, policing and measures to target hardcore offenders would produce real crime reduction results.

“The challenge would be to find a spare billion dollars – a task ACT would make no easier by cutting $5 billion a year from government revenue through their flat tax plan.

“Overseas evidence shows that, for hardcore offenders who cannot be rehabilitated, the best way to deal with them is to lock them up longer and deny the opportunity to re-offend. However, truth in sentencing does not target this group. It locks all offenders up for longer regardless of the threat they pose.

“Judges have discretion in sentencing to ensure that sentences imposed protect society from dangerous offenders. This discretion must be used appropriately. Simplistic proposals based on discredited American models, such as truth in sentencing, mandatory sentencing and sentencing commissions, reduce the judiciary’s ability to deliver sentences that fit the crime.

“There is also substantial evidence that turning prisoners out on the street at the end of their sentence without parole support and supervision, as Mr Prebble’s bill would, makes them far more likely to re-offend than if they are released on parole.

“Concerns about transparency in sentencing and inflexibility of parole laws are legitimate. However, they are better addressed by thorough and objective consideration. The major review of sentencing and parole laws, which I instructed the Ministry of Justice to begin in February, will do just that,” Mr Goff said.


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