Prisons

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Smoking has long been embedded in prison culture. www.shutterstock.com

Why banning smoking in prisons is a good idea

It's fair to say Victoria's ban on smoking in prisons has had some teething issues, but there's strong evidence to suggest the move is doing the right thing by inmates, staff and the health system.
Oscar Pistorius' early release was a virtual certainty from the day he was sentenced. EPA/Herman Verwey

Why parole for Oscar Pistorius is perfectly legitimate

Oscar Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide for what was deemed a tragic accident. In light of that verdict, he has not been subject to any special treatment in terms of his sentence.
Longer-term objectives of prison, such as their cost as a deterrent or the cost of failures to rehabilitate, are much harder to put a price on. shutterstock

How do we break down a $3.4b prisons bill? What can it tell us?

Prisons cost data should facilitate comparisons of relative performance, value for money and efficiency. But limitations on the quality of the data mean that, more often than not, they don’t.
Judge Steven Alm pioneered the HOPE project, the first of scores of swift and certain sanction programmes in the US. Youtube/PBS screenshot

Swift and certain sanctions: does Australia have room for HOPE?

The success of probation programmes based on swift and certain sanctions has led to more than 160 such schemes operating in the US. Australia should consider whether the model might work here too.
A NSW programme in which prisoners train stray dogs as part of their rehabilitation is one of a number of innovations adopted in recent years. AAP

Crime and punishment and rehabilitation: a smarter approach

Approaches to crime that rely on punitive methods have proved to be ineffective and counter-productive. Rehabilitation programmes not only prevent crime, but are cost-effective and practical.
Indigenous young people are 25 times more likely to be detained than non-Indigenous young people. AAP/Jesse Roberts

‘Tough on crime’ is creating a lost generation of Indigenous youth

A new generation of Indigenous youth is being separated from their families and culture – this time by the force of criminal law that ignores the proven alternative of community-based justice.
Unless most prisoners are given a realistic prospect of rehabilitation, how much good can prison really do? Shutterstock/sakhorn

What are prisons for? Answering that is the starting point for reform

Sentencing policy is a mixed bag of approaches: punishment, deterrence, protection and rehabilitation. The system will remain costly and ineffective until punitive instincts give way to a more rational approach.
Long Bay Correctional Centre was dubbed the ‘Long Bay Hilton’ by ‘tough on crime’ advocates whose campaigns helped fill prison cells to overflowing. Wikimedia Commons/J Bar

State of imprisonment: prisoners of NSW politics and perceptions

Most crime in NSW has been declining since the early 2000s, and the state's current murder rate is half what it was in 1988. So why is the NSW prison population growing?
Queensland’s reliance on high-security facilities to house a growing prison population may be linked to the nation’s highest rates of return for prisoners on parole. AAP/Dave Hunt

State of imprisonment: out one day, back the next in Queensland

Queensland's rates of imprisonment had been falling, but have undergone a sharp reversal - much of it driven by the nation's highest rates of return by prisoners released into the community.
In the past decade, the number of people ending up in South Australian prison cells has grown at seven times the rate of the state population. AAP/South Australian Correctional Services Department

State of imprisonment: South Australia’s prisoner numbers soar, with just 10% of budget for rehab

Since 2004, the number of prisoners in South Australia has risen seven times faster than the state's net population growth – and nearly doubled its rate of locking up Indigenous Australians.
A man holds a placard reading “I am Charlie” to pay tribute to the victims following a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Reuters

Prisons, Muslim memory and the making of a terrorist

The media spotlight on Cherif Kouachi’s life rekindles questions about prisons and radicalization. As an alleged participant of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Kouachi has seemingly led many lives. In one incarnation…
The high rates of neurodevelopmental disorders among young people in custody show more must be done to resolve the problems that lead them there. Karramba Production/Shutterstock

Neglecting neuroscience has criminal consequences for youth

Incarcerated young people have high rates of neurodevelopmental disorders. A recent international review of research found estimates of the rate of learning disability among young people in custody range…
Opening doors for former offenders. Peter Macdiarmid/PA Archive

University courses for prisoners could reduce re-offending rates

Re-offending rates of former prisoners in England and Wales are stubbornly high, at more than 50% for young adults – and this costs the taxpayer between £9.5m and £13m per year. Despite the fact that research…
It doesn’t have to be like this. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The case for closing down women’s prisons

It sounds like a radical idea. Stop incarcerating women, and close down women’s prisons. But in the UK, there is a growing movement, sponsored by a peer in the House of Lords, to do just that. The argument…

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