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Governor critical of prison failures

By Sue Bailey, Sunday Tasmanian, 9 May 2021

TASMANIA’S Governor Professor Kate Warner has criticised mandatory sentencing and says imprisonment is a failure.

Launching the Justice Reform Initiative in Tasmania last Thursday, Professor Warner said she had spent more than 40 years as a criminologist and in that time the imprisonment rate had increased from about 70 or so per 100,000 adults to 124 per 100,000.

“And yet we have long known that imprisonment is a failure – it does not deter the individuals who are sent there, nor does it rehabilitate them nor deter others from committing offences,” she said.

“Without police and a criminal justice system, crime would undoubtedly increase, but we know that there is no evidence that marginal deterrence – increasing the severity of penalties for the crimes that most worry us, sex offences and non-sexual violent crime and serious property offences – deters members of the public from offending.

“We do need to take crime seriously, but this does not mean embracing a law and order ideology.”

Professor Warner, who is due to step down next month, will be patron of the new crossparty group which aims to implement evidence-based criminal justice policies.

She said the importance of re-evaluating criminal justice and reducing imprisonment was “particularly pertinent in relation to our First Nations people”. She said the Aboriginal imprisonment rate in Tasmania was more than five times the non-Indigenous imprisonment rate.

The Tasmanian patrons of the reform initiative are former parliamentarians Lara Giddings, Christine Milne and Jim Wilkinson, Greg Barns SC and Professor Rob White.

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