he current Penalties and Sentencing system used in Queensland is ineffective. The current system does not adequately apply the five purposes for imposing sentences on offenders set out in the Penalties and Sentences Act of 1992. (Gibbon, Pg 342) The current court system fails to make the penalty fit the crime. Sentences issued to offenders committing serious crimes are too lenient and custodial sentences issued to offenders committing minor offences are inadequate, alternative sentencing solutions need to be adopted to make effective and adequate use of the guidelines set out in the Penalties and Sentencing Act of 1992, and to decrease the rate of less serious crimes being committed in Queensland.
The Penalties and Sentencing Act 1992 (QLD) is the Statute that governs penalties and sentencing in Queensland. The Penalties and Sentencing Act collects into a single act: The General Powers of Courts to Sentence offenders, this act provides the sentencing principals that are to be applied by courts, and sets out the guidelines which must be adhered to when sentencing an offender. (Gray, Pg 325) These include the only purposes for which a sentence may be imposed (Retribution, Deterrence, Rehabilitation, Declaration and Incapacitation), and factors which the court must take into consideration, including the maximum penalty prescribed for that offence, the nature of the harm done, previous convictions, the offenders age and other listed considerations. (O'Brien, Pg 256) These are the five purposes for imposing a sentence on an offender. They are retribution, rehabilitation, deterrence, declaration and incapacitation. (Potter, Pg 598) These are the only reasons for punishing an offender and are set out in the Penalties and Sentencing Act 1992.
Retribution is the theory that the offender must be punished, so the offender realizes that his or her actions are not acceptable to most members of society. (Cotteral, Pg 256) The theory of deterrence is that if an offender is given an appropriate sentence, this might stop that offender from committing similar crimes in the future or it may discourage others thinking of committing the same crime not to do so. The central principal of rehabilitation is the idea that we need to look at why this particular offender committed the crime so he or she can be helped to stop re-offending. Rehabilitation involves education, training and counseling offenders and working with them in order to help correct their behavior. (Gray, Pg 321-326) Apart from being inadequate, keeping prisons running and providing for inmates is extremely expensive.
(Terry O'Grady) To keep a criminal in jail costs the Queensland Government approximately $65 000 for medium security, and close to $100 000 in a maximum security jail. (Crystal links) In 2002 the average daily number of prisoners was 4132, that comes to an overall yearly expense of $213 million. Include into that the increasing crime rate, and the urge to build more jails at the cost of $33 million each. (2002 yearly budget) When considering the amount of alternative community based sentences (at $6 each per day), and the mere $1 856 a year, it is obvious that there is an enormously significant difference between the two. Thus proving that it is far more cost effective to explore and include alternative sentencing options, rather then jail. (Gibbon, Pg 421) These amounts would be reasonable if they were providing the prisoners with the bare essentials.
However, today's prisoners are provided with motel-like accommodation, internet access, mobile phone access, gymnasiums, swimming pools and air-conditioning to name a few. (Encyclopedia. com) Teaching them what lesson? That it's better on the inside perhaps? Keeping prisoners safe from one another is one thing but providing them with luxuries which most Australians who are law abiding citizens can't afford is another. (New Idea) It is a mockery of the Australian Judicial system, and a complete waste of time when considering the fact that prison is supposed to be a punishment and a lesson in life. Why should notorious criminals be allowed these luxuries when the person they harmed or killed may no longer experience these things? It could be seen that jails instead of rehabilitating and deterring criminals are smartening them up making them even smarter criminals once they are released. This statement is supported by the rate of recidivism in Queensland.
Queensland has the highest rate of recidivism in Australia, with 70% of released criminals re-offending. Of these, 15% return to jail having committed the same crime 80% are only imprisoned to serve twelve months or under for committing less serious or minor crimes and 60% are imprisoned for a more serious crime. (Potter, Pg 246-250) Showing that, prisons are not acting as a deterrent and are failing to rehabilitate criminals. Prison is definitely not an effective form of punishment for offenders who commit less serious crimes. Fines or victim compensation are more appropriate for property offences in place of a jail term. (Cotteral, Pg 398) For offenders who commit minor crimes, behavior bonds or suspended sentences provide them with the burden of supervision without the luxuries of prison (also the state without the cost).
(Gray, Pg 223) A recent survey conducted in the local area showed that people think that the rate of less serious crimes is increasing and that our system fails to punish offenders. This proves that the Queensland Government has a problem when dealing out sentences. Perhaps looking further into alternative sentencing is a way that criminals can repay their debt to society and give back to their community instead of costing tax payers money. Crime prevention should also be high on the list for keeping people out of jail. Programs, which targets characteristics common to most offenders, such as unemployment, lack of education, drug abuse and family instability, have had some success in preventing crime. (Currie, Pg 552) Neighborhood watch is also an effective way of assisting in arrests, however this only serves as protection for the community, and does nothing to reduce the crime rate.
(Local Opinion's) Stressing to the community that people who do commit crimes will not be let of lightly and will be punished could be seen as a positive way to ensure everybody is aware of this. In summation, alternative sentencing options need to be introduced as it is quite obvious from both the recidivism rates and the increasing crime rate, that jail terms are not effective in rehabilitating criminals and teaching them a lesson. Also when jailing criminals it should be seen to that they are given only what they deserve, food water and a place to sleep, not cable TVs and internet access, luxuries that should be kept for people who do the right thing and abide by the law.