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Greens ‘Moratorium On Prisons’ Nonsense

13 July 2002

The Greens’ call for a moratorium on new prisons and for an end to prison sentences for all but the most dangerous criminals is a recipe for increased lawlessness, said Justice Minister Phil Goff.

“In a perfect world we would not need prisons nor would we need to punish people for criminal behaviour. But unlike the Greens most of us live in the real world and prisons and prison sentences for criminals are a reality. Green policies like these are simply unworkable and out of touch.

“There are two main reasons for prison sentences, to protect the community and to denounce criminal behaviour through punishment for crimes committed.

“If we were to abolish prison sentences for offenders who are serious repeat burglars, thieves and drunk drivers, we would be sending the wrong message. Those who offend over and over again must know that the ultimate sentence will be imposed.

“Restorative justice programmes do work and we support them, but they are not relevant or appropriate in cases of serious crime and hardened, recidivist offenders.

“The Government’s new sentencing and parole legislation is based on ensuring that the safety of the community must be paramount and that the punishment must fit the crime.

- New guidelines have been set that tell judges when tougher sentences must be given. A key principle of the Sentencing Act says that in general, judges must sentence the most serious offenders to the maximum penalty for their crimes.

- Most murderers will continue to receive life sentences, but the minimum period in prison for the worst murderers has been increased from 10 to 17 years with no automatic right to parole. Seventeen years is just a starting point for judges when determining what sentence should be given.

- With the abolition of the old automatic release at two thirds of sentence provisions, offenders can now be kept in jail for their whole sentence.

- The use of non-parole periods has been expanded. Judges are able to set minimum periods of imprisonment of up to two-thirds of a sentence for serious offenders like rapists and kidnappers.

“The tougher sentencing regime means our prison population will increase by 300-400 prisoners over the next few years. New prisons are a necessity to deal with this growth in prison numbers and we have committed an extra $90 million to keep these offenders off the streets.

“These policies however have been supplemented by efforts to deal with the causes of offending, in particular a major investment through our Youth Offending Strategy to stop young offenders going on to a life of adult crime.

“Ultimately the most effective answer to crime lies in prevention but until new policies work through, imprisonment at current levels is necessary to keep recidivist criminals from offending,” Mr Goff said.


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