Date of this Version
[Extract] ...The ferocity of the public debate over the severity of Pauline Hanson's prison sentence is a welcome sign. It may be a signal that, together with the draconian punishment handed out to disgraced chief magistrate Di Fingleton, Queenslanders at last may be realising that imprisonment might be an inappropriate penalty for many criminal offences. Increasingly, we seem to be using prison as a penalty of "first" rather than "last" resort.
... Indeed, one commentator has gone so far as to suggest that because of our penal background, punishment is a cherished part of the Australian way of life. Certainly in Queensland we seem almost proud of the fact that we make jails tougher and spend less than almost any other state on rehabilitating offenders. During 2000-01 the Australian Productivity Commission reported that Queensland spent the lowest amount on each prisoner a day in each category of managed prisons and community corrections. We spent $116 in secure custody, $72 in open custody and $3 in community corrections. These amounts compare with the national average costs for each prisoner a day of $149 for secure, $117 for open and $6.50 for community corrections.
... Both Premier Peter Beattie and Attorney-General Rod Welford seem to have taken notice of the outpouring of anguish concerning Hanson's three-year sentence and are considering a review of Queensland sentencing practices. But if we are going to spend public money on a government review of sentencing practices, let us at least make it relevant and useful. We could begin by questioning the tedious proposition that more imprisonment and longer sentences will reduce crime in the community. Then we could continue by attacking what retired Supreme Court judge Bill Carter has called the mindless assertion that a bit of prison will do him/her the world of good.