If you were the victim of crime, would you support 'justice reinvestment' -- taking money from the prison system and investing it in communities that produce offenders?
By SBS reporter Christine Heard
If you were a victim of a crime, would you support justice reinvestment?
It would mean taking money out of Australia's jail system and spending that money on the handful of communities in Australia that are producing the majority of offenders.
Bear in mind it's not money being spent on individuals, but on the entire community, to break the cycle of crime.
Perhaps if you'd lost someone you loved to murder, or you'd been raped, you'd be less inclined to support justice reinvestment. But remember, this concept is all about stopping low-level crime before it becomes high level. It's not advocating that serious offenders escape jail.
But it does work on the premise that too many low-level offenders are being jailed. And there's no doubt that over the last 30 years, Australia's prison population has been rising.
There's a belief out there that victims are out for blood, that they believe that locking offenders up is the only way to deal with them. I interviewed two victims for my story - both spokespeople for victims' groups - and they completely dispelled that myth.
Ken Marslew is an extraordinary man. His son was murdered in 1994. When his killer was released from jail 15 years later, Ken was there to shake his hand. Ken firmly believes that rehabilitation is more important than continual punishment, and he was there to support his son's murderer. Sadly, the killer was sent back to jail 6 months later, but that hasn't stopped Ken.
He's a huge believer in justice reinvestment and he says too often, victims confuse justice with revenge. Justice, he says, is doing all you can to prevent more victims.
Similarly, Howard Brown (whose friend was murdered) takes the notion that victims support 'tough on crime' government policies and turns that on its head. In his words, victims are not idiots - they realise that early intervention is the key, not punitive measures.
So if the Federal government accepts the recommendation of the Senate and actually initiates a justice reinvestment trial, it shouldn't fear that victims will cry foul.
Sure, voters might - but if those whose lives have been irrevocably changed by crime support justice reinvestment, shouldn't we?
Watch Christine Heard's report via YouTube
Anti-violence organisation Enough is Enough
Victim support group VOCAL
UNSW Justice Reinvestment
Senate Committe report on Australia's Justice Reinvestment trial
Justice reinvestment - Oklahoma case study (watch below)