A COALITION of support agencies and advocate groups that work in prisons has backed corrective services minister Fran Logan’s idea of releasing low-risk prisoners.
Social Reinvestment WA says keeping fine defaulters in prison at a cost of $772 a day is economic mismanagement, when they can be put on community work orders for just $24 a day. At the same time the community benefits from their environmental rehabilitation, cleaning and farming.
SRWA says the system also discriminates against struggling mums. According to the WA Law Society, women only make up 15 per cent of the total prison population, but 22 per cent of fine defaulters are women.
Nearly three-quarters are unemployed and struggle to pay fines, and 64 per cent are Aboriginal; many from WA’s most disadvantaged communities.
SRWA says this often separates mothers from their children, who can end up in costly state care, while elderly people who relied on the women are put at risk.
“Fine defaulters are not the only people locked up in Western Australian prisons, at an extreme cost to the community, despite posing no threat to other people,” says co-chair Daniel Morrison.
“Who else is WA paying through the nose to lock up?
“Which families have been needlessly torn apart, when some non-violent offenders could instead be on community corrections orders.”
SRWA says keeping people out of prisons also stops them being exposed to hardened crims who might teach them a few nasty habits.
But One Nation’s Charles Smith, a former WA police officer and incoming East Metro MLC, says Mr Logan’s plan was a “slap in the face” to victims of crime and says all three branches of WA government need to toughen up.
“We know magistrates have continuously failed to meet community expectations on many levels, be it in weak sentencing or granting bail to repeat and dangerous offenders, but we now have a Labor Government that’s weak on law and order joining in wanting to place criminals back into the community,” he says
“That is wholly unacceptable. If you break the law, there needs to be a consequence.”
by STEVE GRANT