A proposed Serious Sex Offender Public Register, which the Victorian Opposition says it will establish if it wins this year’s state election, is likely to increase the risk of people convicted of sexual offences reoffending says Jesuit Social Services.
“Law and order will be one of the most prominent topics in the lead-up to the Victorian election and it is vital that both major parties focus on evidence-based policies that hold people accountable for their actions while supporting them to become productive members of the community,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.
“Instead, the Opposition has unveiled a string of proposals such as restrictions around the use of concurrent sentences, plans to ‘name and shame’ young offenders and today’s announcement about a public register, calling for ‘tough on crime’ approaches while actually flying in the face of evidence about how to create and enhance community safety.”
The proposed Serious Sex Offender Public Register would allow members of the public to apply for and receive information, including photographs, descriptions and suburb names, about members of the community who have been convicted of serious sex offences.
Ms Edwards says all members of the community have the right to feel safe, and that a range of services and interventions are necessary to ensure community safety. Research from jurisdictions where similar schemes operate, including parts of the US and UK, have indicated that public registers have little impact on re-offending rates.
“In fact, such a scheme can have the opposite effect by serving to create community anxiety and opening the door for the potential of ‘vigilante justice’ which does not help anybody.”
Ms Edwards points to the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) model which operates in various forms in parts of Canada, the USA, UK, Spain and the Netherlands as an effective example of how community members can work together to reduce the risk of offending.
The model, which complements correctional oversight of sex offenders, works with them when they are released into the community, surrounding them with trained volunteer mentors who hold the participant to account while monitoring and supporting them.
“We must look at models like this which actually reduce offending and help keep the community safe,” says Ms Edwards
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