Contrasting media coverage of home detention

It is a good time to be writing to politicos about home detention.

The moderate:

Death sentence for periodic detention

Sean Nicholls and Geesche Jacobsen

June 11, 2010 – 3:00AM

WEEKEND detention will be scrapped in NSW and replaced with a system of community-based treatment and monitoring orders in an overhaul designed to bring down recidivism rates.

Magistrates and judges sentencing people convicted of crimes that attract less than two years’ jail will have the option of making an intensive correctional order, forcing them to undergo rehabilitation and education and complete a minimum of 32 hours a month of community service.

A court would also be able to impose conditions such as a ban on drinking, curfews, travel restrictions, random breath tests and electronic monitoring with ankle bracelets.

Offenders whose criminal behaviour is a result of gambling or alcohol addiction face having to wear monitoring devices for up to two years to ensure they avoid casinos or hotels.

The orders would apply to motoring offences, speeding, drug offences and some assaults. Offenders have to be assessed as suitable for the program.
If the orders are breached, the NSW Parole Authority will have the power to order the balance of the sentence be served in jail.

The government expects about 750 people a year to be subject to the orders. The Premier, Kristina Keneally, said it was a tough approach.
Since a review of periodic detention by the NSW Sentencing Council two years ago, the number of people sentenced to weekend detention has fallen.
In 2007, nearly 1300 people served periodic detention, mostly for less than a year.

Ms Keneally and the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said the measure aimed to reduce re-offending by 10 per cent by 2016.

Chris Cunneen, Professor of Criminology at James Cook University, said intensive correction orders were ”a good thing” if they were properly resourced, otherwise magistrates would be reluctant to use them.

The government denies the move was a cost-cutting measure, arguing it would cost $14.5 million a year, compared with $11 million for periodic detention.

The former chairman of the sentencing council, James Wood, QC, said yesterday he fully supported the move away from periodic detention, which was a flawed system.

”At the very best, or very worst, periodic detention is a minor inconvenience,” he said.

”What it does do is expose people to undesirable associations with other prisoners, other offenders, which can be taken advantage of back in the community. It also exposes them to new forms of criminality and new tricks. I just think it’s an inappropriate way of dealing with offenders, because it doesn’t address the factors that are causing them to offend. This is the key to this whole program: intensive treatment, retraining. Ways of addressing the factors that cause people to offend.”

The deputy chief magistrate, Paul Cloran, also welcomed the proposal, which unlike periodic detention would be available outside Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. He said he hoped it would be further extended to the far west of NSW.

But Denise Weelands, a lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, said she had concerns that strict conditions set many vulnerable people up to fail.
The less than moderate:
Crime victims outraged at Kristina Keneally’s plan for criminals to serve sentences at home

* By staff writers
* June 11, 2010 9:21AM

A PLAN to to slash the rising costs of running NSW prisons by allowing offenders sentenced to less than two years has drawn fire from victims, but advocates say it is a responsible approach.

Under the proposal every criminal sentenced in the Local Court to two years or less in jail, except for sex offenders, will be eligible to serve their sentences at home.

The cost to the the Government is $46 a day for home supervision instead of $194 a day to keep them in jail.

Victims groups say they are outraged at Premier Kristina Keneally’s proposed solution to the high cost of keeping prisoners in overcrowded jails reported The Daily Telegraph.

“It doesn’t make any sense, it takes the punishment aspect of the sentence away,” victims advocate Peter Rolfe said. “It is appalling.
“They are going to be able to spend their time in the comfort of their own home.”

Peter and Tammy Matten’s home near Newcastle was robbed earlier this year and Mrs Matten chased the robber while she was heavily pregnant with their daughter.

Mr Matten said it wasn’t a punishment to send people home to serve jail sentences. “It wouldn’t deter them at all, they’re still hanging out with their friends,” he said.

“If you get someone that is a drug dealer, they can still sell drugs at home. I think if you do a crime and you’re arrested you are supposed to be in jail.

“The guys that robbed us had done it before, a lot of people in the area have been robbed in exactly the same circumstances.”

The Government claims that it was still a “prison sentence”, just administered differently. But it admitted some of the state’s jails were 100 inmates over capacity and there were only 300 empty cells left.

Criminals who committed offences including drug related crimes, riot and affray, assault, fraud, vandalism and break and enter would be eligible for home detention.

There would be just one corrective services officer for every 20 criminals at home and only a fraction would be electronically monitored or subject to curfews.

The rest would be free to travel around NSW and their only conditions would be eight hours of community service a week and a rehabilitation or education program.

They would only be sent to jail if they committed another offence or breached their “intensive correction orders”.

Ms Keneally said the legislation was “tough” while her spokesman admitted rehabilitation programs in jail or periodic detention were non-existent or had failed. “It will provide the judiciary with a new option,” she said.
“This is about helping offenders get themselves back on the straight and narrow but those who fail to comply with the program risk spending the duration of their order in jail.”

Laws will rehabilitate

Victims of Crimes Assistance League spokesman Howard Brown told the ABC the idea would help some offenders and was an improvement on weekend or periodic dentention.

“We thought it was somewhat of a perversity that we would be supervising people for two days a week, and then for the rest of the time they could basically go and do whatever they wanted,” he said.

“One of the beauties of these intensive direction orders is that these people would be subject to supervision seven days a week.”

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