20 May 2012

Ending Sydney’s law-and-order auction

Interesting article on NSW's new Attorney General, Greg Smith.
Smith claims to be unmoved. “The whole hardline approach against crime has been a failure in many places,” he tells me. “This attempt to make me look softer misrepresents what I am trying to do. I am trying to turn people away from crime. It’s not soft, it’s being more pragmatic.”
Australia spends $11.5 billion a year on law and order, about $511 a year per person. The dubious honour for the biggest spending goes to New South Wales.
Within two years of their release, 43 per cent of NSW prisoners reoffend, compared with just under 37 per cent in Victoria, for example, and less than 30 per cent in Tasmania.
The seeds of Smith’s liberal zeal to change all this go back to his days as a prosecutor, first as an instructing solicitor then as a crown prosecutor. He would respond with scepticism to the hard luck stories defence counsel wheeled out about their clients’ disadvantaged upbringings. Slowly, though, he realised that most people who commit crimes do so precisely because of their backgrounds, including dysfunctional family life and poor education opportunities.


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