Prison should be a last resort: Jesuit Social Services

Prison terms would be the only sentencing option for a number of offences (Bigstock)

The Victorian Government’s plan to further restrict the use of community correction orders sets a dangerous precedent, with little evidence it will reduce re-offending, says Jesuit Social Services. 

ABC News last week reported the state government will ban judges from issuing CCOs for aggravated home invasions and carjackings. Attorney-General Martin Pakula said a custodial sentence would be the only sentencing option for these offences.

"This legislation will ensure that CCOs won't be a sentencing option for some of the most serious and violent offences where the community expects prison time to be imposed," Mr Pakula said.

The reforms, the state government said, will also limit the “special reasons” provisions available so offenders cannot rely on the fact they were under the influence of illicit drugs at the time of offending.

Jesuit Social Services chief Julie Edwards said it was “disappointing that our political leaders are looking solely to punitive responses to crime instead of the evidence which shows that keeping people out of the prison system is the best way to prevent re-offending”.

"A community correction order is issued with conditions, such as engaging with drug and alcohol services or participating in behaviour change programs, which ultimately support people to address the underlying issues behind their offending. This is vital in people being able to turn their lives around and make a positive contribution to the community."

Ms Edwards said it was worrying that the Victorian Government is seeking to further limit judicial discretion. 

"There should never be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to justice, and a healthy and effective criminal justice system is one which allows magistrates and judges to consider the relevant facts of a particular case before handing down a sentence. 

"Evidence from Australia and around the world shows us that the best way to keep the community safe is to prevent people from having contact with the justice system in the first place. 

"The passing of this legislation will increase Victoria’s already ballooning prison population which is currently more than 7,000," she said. "We know our prison system is under serious strain, and should be doing everything possible to ensure that detention is only ever used as a last resort."


Restricting use of CCOs a dangerous precedent (Jesuit Social Services) 

Victorian community orders dumped for aggravated carjacking, home invasion offences (ABC News

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