Legal experts have criticised home affairs minister Peter Dutton after he blamed Melbourne’s African gang issue on soft sentencing.
“If you are appointing civil libertarians to the magistrate’s court over a long period then you are going to get sentences,” Mr. Dutton told 3AW radio on Friday.
So do harsh sentences reduce crime? Well, it depends on the specific offense, and this is where things get complicated. Finding punishment that is proportional to the crime is always hard. (Patricia & Don 2015) Did a study in New South Wales on the government’s proposal to introduce mandatory minimum prison sentencing. They found that despite the tough talk, no evidence was found to support that longer prison sentencing had any effect on the rates of assault due to alcohol in New South Wales. (Mears & Cochran, 2015), Also come to the same conclusion, they found that although stricter punishment, and increasing more harsh sentence among second-time offenders may sometime reduce recidivism, less severe punishment appears on average to be more efficient.
The Bureau of statistics in NSW examined trends in property and violent crimes across the state between 1996 and 2008. They found that a 10% rise in the risk of arrest or imprisonment had a small impact, but the study found that increasing jail sentences did not affect crime levels.
“The bottom line is this: increasing the risk of arrest, and the likelihood of going to prison produces modest reductions in property and violent crime, but increasing the length of prison sentences exerts no effect at all,” Dr. Weatherburn said. ( ABC news, 2012) The study further found that a 10% rise in income household produced almost 19 percent reduction in property crime over the long-term and a 15 percent cut in violent crime.
On the other hand harsher mandatory minimum sentencing on crime, eliminate sympathy in the justice system. Having punishments that are too lenient does not do justice to the society. Society then starts to think that offenders are getting away with crimes too easily. Mandatory minimum sentencing for some crimes guarantees that sentencing will be the same throughout the justice system. This way the Law is felt the same by everyone, regardless of race, color or ethnicity.
When it comes to sentencing, I believe that punishment should proportional to the crime or crimes committed. And while this is good in one sense and can also bad in that it shifts discretion to prosecutors, and when prosecutors have been known to stack the deck to reach a guilty plea. This I think is another form of executive usurpation of power, in that the prosecutors are part of the executive branch of the government and mandatory sentencing essentially removes the checks and balances.
Adopting harsher laws in Melbourne will not work, while harsh sentencing might have an effect in reducing crime in countries like America, the story is different here in Australia as the studies have shown. I think the Sudanese youth lack purpose and direction. Also before we do anything we need to find what is motivating the rise of these crimes, is it un-employment, psychological or social? What we need is a combination of harsh sentencing with better rehabilitation programs, to prevent people from repeating the same crimes. These youths are angry, we need a way to re-direct that anger into something meaningful.
Patricia, M., & Don James, W. (2015). Does the threat of longer prison terms reduce the incidence of assault? Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 49(3), 389-404. doi:10.1177/0004865815575397
Mears, D. P., & Cochran, J. C. Progressively Tougher Sanctioning and Recidivism:Assessing the Effects of Different Types of Sanctions. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 0(0), 0022427817739338. doi:10.1177/0022427817739338