SUNSHINE COAST DAILY
23 March 2020
“I am a criminal lawyer who is passionate about campaigning for fair and equitable rights for people being dealt with within our criminal justice system.
In light of the rapidly spreading COVID-19, it is critical that our government implements safety measures as a matter of urgency to protect Australians in custody as well as safeguarding our community from further disease outbreak spreading from prisons.
Despite the fact that the death toll is relatively low at this stage, it is extremely likely that it will increase over the next few weeks with medical emergency services becoming more stretched.
Those in custody are at a higher risk of contracting and onpassing COVID-19. Correctional facilities are a giant Petri dish in terms of being bacteria breeding hotspots for illness. This is due to the fact that there is such a high volume of people packed into close living quarters. To make matters worse, prisoners are often unwell with low immune systems as it is.
It should be a given that pre-emptive action is taken by our government to prevent riots and deaths in custody resulting from COVID-19, as well as to prevent the spread of the virus into our community from prisons. The fact that there has been no action taken yet in Australia in response to this risk is completely unacceptable.
We should be following suit of the many other jurisdictions around the world who are proactively implementing measures to release vulnerable prisoners, such as the United States, Iran, the United Kingdom and Ireland.”
SUNSHINE COAST DAILY
5 October 2019
"Belinda Robinson is a criminal lawyer who is passionate about campaigning for change for a better criminal justice system.
The Australian Institute of Criminology says that most prisoners are highly likely to reoffend once released into the community and have a high rate of return to prison.
According to Queensland Corrective Services, in 2018, about 42 per cent of Queensland offenders ended up back in prison within two years.
In Queensland, 40.2 per cent of prisoners released during the 2014-2015 financial year returned to prison within two years.
The average cost is $181 per day to keep each individual incarcerated.
In 2004 to 2005, $1.7 billion was spent on 120 custodial facilities housing a daily average of 24,092 offenders.
These costs will continue to escalate unless we actively seek to prevent reoffending among prisoners post-release.
A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology published in 2006 found that within an average of 34 days post release, 64 per cent of males and 37 per cent of females reported using illicit drugs and there were significant levels of alcohol use and physical and mental distress. Within one year, 19 per cent of the group had been reincarcerated.
The study concluded that effective crime control strategies will ultimately fail if they do not include pre- and post-release intervention programs designed to reduce the likelihood of reoffending among prisoners.
Our current system as it stands is flawed and broken.
The riots, assaults and worker strikes at our Queensland correctional facilities (including youth detention centres) are spiralling out of control.
Our prisons are overcrowded.
Taxpayers are forking out billions of dollars to house individuals that are going around and around a revolving door, being incarcerated, released and then incarcerated all over again.
We do not have a functional system in place to reintegrate prisoners smoothly back into society.
After prisoners complete the duration of their sentence, they are tossed back into society with little to no connections with anybody in the outside world, no money, no skills or means of finding solid employment or accommodation, no rehabilitation and no psychological assistance.
Facing all of these issues combined, it is no wonder that prisoners often turn to what they know, which is committing crime as a means and way to survive and make money for food and accommodation and fall back into the cycle of reoffending and using drugs and alcohol to numb the trauma and psychological issues they may have.
Our system is broken and we are spending billions currently, so what do we have to lose by making a change?
When are we going to acknowledge the statistics which show that correctional facilities do not effectively deter or stop reoffending and that they do not effectively rehabilitate people?
We desperately need to be considering alternatives to prison.
People who commit crimes do not need prison, they need help.
Prisons should be turned into rehabilitation facilities, where drug rehabilitation and trauma counselling are made a real priority as well as educating people into trades and careers to assist them to reintegrate more smoothly back into society upon release.
Our current system has waiting lists so long for education and programs that a lot of prisoners finish their sentences before they even get to start or finish any of the programs.
How can we say that we cannot afford to spend money on rehabilitation, counselling and better education for prisoners when we are currently spending billions as it is? If we could rehabilitate people and stop the revolving door of recidivism, this would save taxpayers thousands in the long term.
Some say that prisoners do not deserve the “luxury” of receiving assistance in prison however the issues are deeper and more complex than that.
It is not about providing prisoners with luxury.
It is about providing prisoners with rehabilitation, assistance and education to reintegrate back into society upon their release.
This is a move to benefit society as a whole and not just prisoners, this assistance should not be seen as a “luxury”, it should be seen as basic human rights.
When did we forget that these people are human beings too, they are not animals and nor should they be treated as such.
The current system as it stands is archaic, outdated and dysfunctional.
Statistics of recidivism and spiralling costs will only continue to worsen unless we campaign for change."