Closing Prisons & Investing In Crime Prevention
Governments should aspire to close prisons, not open more of them
But as the rest of the world is working to reduce the number of people in prison, Victoria is wasting billions doing the opposite.
Toxic state politics have led to disproportionate spending on prisons and police at the expense of housing, health and education – the things that actually prevent crime.
While the Victorian Labor Government has spent billions on law and order politics, reoffending rates in our state have hit record highs – showing that a better solution is needed.
Victoria should follow the example of the safest nations with the lowest crime rates, by closing jails and investing in addressing disadvantage and the root causes of crime.
The Greens will:
- Close Barwon and Loddon Prisons by mid-2023
- Immediately cancel plans to hire 502 additional police and 50 PSOs, given Victoria already has more police than New South Wales.
- Invest the savings in public housing, health services, education, and crime prevention research.
- Establish a new Minister for Justice Reinvestment
Fix Victoria's Bail Laws
People are innocent until proven guilty. Only dangerous offenders should be denied bail while awaiting trial
In Victoria, the Labor government has made punitive changes to our bail laws, which have seen huge numbers of First Nations people, women and children held in prison unsentenced, just waiting for their court date.
People experiencing homelessness, women, and victim-survivors of family violence are more likely to be denied bail than non-Indigenous men, even though their alleged offences are typically less serious and non-violent.
Being held on remand unnecessarily can have devastating impacts: people will often lose their housing, their employment, or have their children removed and placed in out of home care
Today, nearly half of all people in Victoria’s prisons are there on remand, unsentenced.
Labor’s appetite to spend more and expand Victoria’s prison system is driven by their changes to bail laws, which deny bail to low-level offenders.
The Greens want to fix Victoria’s broken bail system to prevent low level offenders being locked up unnecessarily, so we can close two of Victoria’s Prisons.
And we have a plan to do it.
The Greens will:
- Reform the Bail Act consistent with the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission.
- Simplify bail by basing decisions on the seriousness of the charge and any risk to the public.
- Make fairer bail decisions by reducing the disproportionate number of First Nations people, women and children who are held on remand despite being charged with minor offences, while remanding dangerous offenders in custody.
Sentences should be fair, and judged on a case by case basis
Mandatory minimum sentences, which were introduced by the Liberals in 2013, and broadened by the Labor party, set a minimum or fixed penalty for an offence.
It means that decision making power is taken away from judges, who often are forced to condemn people to more severe punishments than are necessary or fair.
Our courts should be able to take the individual circumstances into account in sentencing, and make decisions that give offenders the best chance of getting back on track.
There is no evidence supporting mandatory sentencing (there’s actually a mountain of evidence against it) yet politicians continue to falsely claim that adopting mandates will reduce crime.
These laws have proven to be a driver of over incarceration of First Nations people, and young people, and entrench offenders' likelihood of ongoing contact with the criminal justice system.
It’s time to end mandatory minimum sentences
The Greens will:
- Repeal mandatory sentencing laws, leaving the courts to decide sentences based on evidence.
- Reinstate all sentencing options previously available to the courts, including home detention where appropriate.
- Do a three year trial of a homelessness court, which directs people whose low level offences are a result of homelessness into services, instead of jail.
- Target the causes of crime to lower record reoffending rates.
Monitoring Police and Prisons
Any government ignoring oversight of police and places of detention is not committed to reducing deaths in custody
Year on year First Nations Victorians die in custody and under police supervision.
But despite mounting pressure, the Victorian Labor Government continues to resist implementing an independent detention monitoring system, which would hold Victorian authorities to account.
Right now, Victoria’s police oversight system sees 98 per cent of complaints against police being investigated by the police themselves.
And this year IBAC identified bias and lack of impartiality on the part of police officers investigating police complaints by Aboriginal people.
To end Aboriginal deaths in custody, and hold our police to account, we need a strong independent monitor to oversee places of detention.
The Greens will:
- Immediately implement Victoria’s responsibilities under the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, by establishing an independent monitor of human rights conditions in places of detention, with an investment of $3 million per year.
- Resource IBAC so all serious police complaints and misconduct are independently investigated.
- Develop a framework to monitor potential racial profiling by police.
End Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
Aboriginal people are still dying in custody. 30 years after the royal commission we need to finally act
First Nations Victorians are over policed and mistreated by the justice system. It’s critical that we ensure access to culturally safe legal services for First Nations people.
But just this year, the Victorian Labor government has cut critical funding to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, forcing them to stop taking on clients.
Meanwhile the Victorian Labor government has quietly abandoned implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody.
The result? Under this Labor government, the number of First Nations people being imprisoned has skyrocketed, and Aboriginal people continue to die in custody.
It’s time to hold the government to account, and ensure they provide First Nations people fair and free access to legal services, and implement the recommendations of the royal commission in full.
The Greens will:
- Provide $24.5 million over four years to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to deliver placed-based culturally safe legal services across Victoria.
- Provide $3.8 Million to establish an independent office of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner to independently monitor progress on implementation of RCIADIC and coronial inquest recommendations.
Boost legal aid
Community Legal Centres and legal aid support the most vulnerable in the community, but Victoria still doesn’t provide equality of justice for those without financial resources.
Vulnerable accused are still frequently appearing at bail hearings without legal representation, leading to unjust incarceration.
Those appearing before the courts in regional centres continue to experience postcode justice – meaning they are imprisoned because the legal support and services to keep them out of jail don’t extend beyond the city.
Community Legal Centres are critical for those facing eviction and homelessness, incarceration, family violence, discrimination, and employer exploitation at work and unfair dismissal. But short term, insecure funding means they can only take on a fraction of these clients.
Failure to resource legal services and legal aid is a false economy. We know that helping people to resolve their legal problems early and effectively are more likely to move on with productive lives, rather than stay entrenched in the system.
The Greens' plan includes:
- Providing $24.5 million over four years to the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service to deliver placed-based culturally safe legal services across Victoria.
- Providing $107.5m over four years for legal aid, community legal centres and access to justice initiatives.
HOW WE'LL PAY FOR OUR POLICIES
- Making big corporations pay their fair share
The Greens will make the big banks, property developers and the gambling industry pay their fair share of tax so we can invest in climate action, affordable housing and public services for all.
Our plans will also be paid for by spending smarter and making our state borrowings work for the community.
Our plan includes:
Closing Barwon and Loddon Prisons and transferring 75% of staff to other prisons and providing redundancy packages to the remaining 25%.
Amending the Bail Act to abolish the criminal offence to contravene certain conduct conditions under section 30A, which makes it an offence for an alleged offender on bail to contravene certain conduction conditions imposed by a bail decision maker; and to abolish the reverse onus tests of ‘compelling reasons’ and ‘exceptional circumstances’ in favour of a single ‘unacceptable risk’ test, as recommended by the Victorian Law Reform Commission's 2007 report (recommendations 12 and 13).
Together, we’re powerful.
With more Greens in parliament, we can tackle the climate crisis, make housing affordable and hold the major parties to account. Your vote is powerful.