In case, you missed it. Great story by ABC’s national reporter Josie Taylor, titled, ‘Victorian prisoners ‘maxing out’ jail sentences’, again brilliantly incorporating the views of former prisoners, the experts by experience, the vital valuable lived experience perspective required for critical prison policy reform.
The Victorian Government introduced changes to the assessment, approval and monitoring of parole in response to the murder of ABC employee Jill Meagher by a serial offender who was on parole. Parole has been made harder to get. It is also harder to comply with. In respect for victims of crime, the policy aim was to enhance community safety.
In my opinion the parole changes were an ill-informed knee jerk policy reaction that has created unintended consequences. The parole changes have affected hundreds of people in prison. People who would have otherwise previously been eligible for parole are now choosing to serve their maximum sentence rather than leave gaol early on parole and under supervision. Increasing burden on taxpayers and impacting community safety. Counterproductive policy.
If people leave prison with the unresolved issues that lead to addiction, crime and prison, further compounded by their prison culture experience, they could potentially commit further crime on release. With no parole and supervision, there is no capacity for authorities to foresee and to act. As Arie Frieberg says in the ABC story, ‘If they max out their sentence, that is don’t go under supervision, then we have no control of them at all and the risks are therefore greater’.
My analysis of this story goes deeper than the policy and unintended consequences debate. Josie Taylor’s story is a valuable opportunity to listen to the people interviewed, the people who are directly impacted, and really hear what they are saying. Patrick in the ABC story says, ‘It’s a drug addiction, you know, you’re not working/ You’ve gotta get by. And it becomes a way of life. That’s how we justify what we do. And then that makes us feel a little bit better in our minds. But it’s all wrong isn’t it, to a straight person it’s wrong.’
‘I don’t know how to be straight’, said my former partner to me in a prison Visit Centre. ‘I don’t know how you live the way you live – a drug and crime free life – a normal life’. The catalyst quote that led to me pursuing my Churchill Fellowship project.
If prison, supervision and parole are only ever about control,’the us versus them division’ (User Voice), nothing will change. People need prison programs and community corrections support that actually facilitate positive behaviour change. Personal positive change comes through inspiration, hope, vision, motivation, and self-belief. Personal positive change comes from seeing others who have ‘walked in one’s shoes’ and reformed – ‘gone straight’.
My premise remains. ‘Only Offenders can stop re-offending’ (User Voice). We will only see real reform when my Churchill Fellowship research recommendations are implemented in Victoria and Australia.