Longer parole or shorter sentences that reduce reoffending?
Is it longer parole periods or shorter prison sentences that reduces reoffending?
Dr Polaschek’s recent research, which shows that prisoners who got early parole were 30 percent more likely to avoid reconviction over a period of more than two years, raises an important issue, says Kim Workman, spokesperson for Rethinking Crime and Punishment, and 2015 JD Stout Fellow, at Victoria University.
“Do these high risk prisoners reoffend less, because they spend more time on parole, or because they spend less time in prison? What we need to understood is that prison is one of the major causes of crime, and the longer an offender spends in one, the more likely they are to reoffend when they leave.
The video of prisoners prize fighting at the SERCO prison in Wiri, shown on TV One on Monday night, was not an isolated case. Violence is endemic in prisons, and inevitably, the most well intentioned offenders are drawn into a culture of power struggles, pecking order intimidation, bullying, and trauma. It is not an ideal place to run therapeutic programmes, and the more that can be done to locate rehabilitation within the community rather than in prison, the better.
Garth McVicar’s view that parole system is offensive to victims is a view not shared by most victims. Given the choice, victims would rather see a system which reduces harm to victims, rather than a one which increases offending. Garth doesn’t care a jot about victims – he just wants to see people punished.
On the basis of this research, both the Department of Corrections and the Parole Board need to rethink their approach. If they are serious about reducing reoffending, then prisoners should be released much earlier. For that to work really well, community probation must shift its current obsession with offender monitoring and surveillance, to a more positive strategy of support and accountability. The evidence is clear; if they are serious about protecting public safety in the long term, then increased prison time is not the answer.