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   Jul 05

More males behind bars: proven data

PREVIOUSLY hidden figures provide an insight into the make-up of Tasmania’s prisons and highlight an over-representation of young men.
Nanjing Night Net

As of July 1, Department of Justice figures provided to The Sunday Examiner show there are 514 people incarcerated within Tasmania and that 135, one fifth, are in remand and yet to be convicted.

More than half of the crimes of Tasmania’s prisoners were against people.

Most of the offenders are men aged between 21 and 26.

Only 24 inmates are teenagers.

About 95.7 per cent of prisoners and those on remand are men and more than half are aged between 18 and 35 years.

The highest sentenced offence group involve acts intended to cause injury (73 prisoners) followed by homicide and sexual assault.

Just 14.5 per cent of inmates are more than 50 years old.

Prisoner advocate and barrister Greg Barns said it was the first time he could remember this type of data being released and congratulated the government for doing so. Mr Barns said it was important to know who was in prison and why.

He said youth needed to be kept out of prison and provided with sentences that dealt with underlying behavioural and social issues.

“It is disturbing that 20 per cent of prisoners are 25 or younger, but it is not out of kilter with other states,” Mr Barns said.

“It is an over representation and what it reflects is the lack of alternative sentencing options in Tasmania to prison.

“It can be contrasted to Victoria where you do have now a much greater use of community correction orders by the courts to try and steer young people from prison.

“If you are in the prison system between the ages of 18 to 25 the chances of you re-offending on release are much higher than if you are given some sort of intensive community order.

“A lot of those offenders will be in there for under 12 months and it is essentially a waste of time.”

Mr Barns said the government should move towards community corrections orders – to which Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin agreed.

She said the government had committed $5.3 million over three years to several youth justice initiatives.

“The lack of sentencing options at the moment is a real shortcoming of our justice system.

“That’s why we will be implementing a wider range of alternative sentencing options as we phase out suspended sentences.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013-14 data showed there were 405,692 offenders proceeded against by police in Australia during that period, with men accounting for 78 per cent – almost four times that of women.

In the same time-frame offender rates were highest in the 15-19 year age group nationally.

The department could not provide a geographic breakdown of prisoners.

Mr Barns said the high number of people in remand also painted a poor picture and that it suggested processing through the courts was not happening fast enough.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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