The Law Society of South Australia has expressed concern for a proposal to roll out new laws amending the Recidivist and Repeat Offenders Act, saying it will lead to an increase in the state’s prison population.
Moves by the South Australian government to introduce Statutes Amendment (Recidivist and Repeat Offenders) Bill 2017 will bump prison numbers in an already over-crowded population, according to the state law society.
Tony Rossi, president of the SA Law Society, criticised the limited time afforded for stakeholder consultation and said the new amendments were part of a suite of other state initiatives that showed “no regard” for a policy of early intervention and rehabilitation of offenders.
“Dealing with serious repeat offenders is not easy, but abandoning them is not the answer. It sends a confusing message,” Mr Rossi said.
“This bill has been rushed in to the Parliament without consultation with relevant stakeholders. The Parliament should refuse to finalise its consideration of the bill unless and until relevant stakeholders had an opportunity to make a detailed and considered submission,” he said.
Mr Rossi went on to admonish the government’s failure to implement laws that would properly enhance community safety and said it had not been explained an already over-crowded system would accommodate more prisoners.
“This is another case of the government looking to redraft criminal laws rather than properly invest in policies and programs that will actually have a material effect on enhancing community safety.
“Continuing to debase fundamental aspects of the criminal law is no way to address the underlying social issues that so fundamentally contribute to repeat offending,” Mr Rossi said.
“It’s not even a cheap option when you consider the extraordinary costs of keeping people in prison.”
Crucially, the Mr Rossi said problems about the way the bill fails to distinguish between youth and adult offenders would hinder opportunities to reach young people with early intervention programs. Locking young people up indefinitely was no way to support the eventual return of offenders to the community, he said.
Mr Rossi added he believed this would exacerbate the “cycle of reoffending” and also have a disproportionately damaging impact on young Aboriginal people.
“These proposed laws, particularly in the absence of any effort to improve outcomes for wayward youths, send a message to these young people that they are not worthy of redemption,” he said.
The SA Law Society renewed calls for the government to review its approach to an automatic discount of 40 per cent for offenders who enter early guilty pleas, saying that matters concerning non-parole periods should be subject to the discretion of a trial judge.