The introduction of mandatory sentences for a range of offences, proposed by Victorian Opposition leader Mathew Guy, will not improve community safety according to Jesuit Social Services.

Under the proposed legislation, to be introduced if Opposition leader Mathew Guy is elected in November 2018, mandatory prison sentences would be applicable to 11 crimes where the individual has an earlier conviction for a violent offence.

The Victorian Opposition has also proposed 10-year minimum sentences for people with a conviction for a violent offence if they subsequently commit a home invasion or aggravated robbery.

“Mr Guy says you can’t put a price on community safety. We agree and that’s why we believe increased investments should be made into vital community services that prevent crime from occurring, and diverting people away from the justice system wherever possible, instead of policies that would increase the use of incarceration and ultimately do nothing to make the community safer,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

Ms Edwards says Jesuit Social Services strongly opposes mandatory sentences.

“Our courts already have a wide range of sentencing options available to them. An effective criminal justice system is one in which magistrates and judges are permitted to consider the relevant facts of a particular case before handing down a sentence. It is vital our system supports this judicial discretion – there should never be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to criminal justice. I am concerned about the way Mr Guy is referring to the judiciary. This is not helpful in promoting confidence in our system”.

“In jurisdictions around the world, including the Northern Territory, we have seen mandatory sentencing lead to cases where excessively harsh sentences are imposed. In the USA, studies have shown that people are deterred from committing crimes not because of the length of a potential sentence but because of the fear of being caught,” says Ms Edwards.

“Populist policies like mandatory sentences are not the way to create safer communities – instead, they will place more pressure on Victoria’s already strained prison system which recently reached 7,000 prisoners for the first time. Many people who leave prison are often worse off than when they entered, and evidence from Australia and around the world shows us that the best way to keep the community safe is to prevent people from having contact with the justice system in the first place.

“We are concerned about Mr Guy’s proposals because there is no evidence that ‘tough on crime’ agendas like these, that result in more people being locked up for longer periods, actually work in reducing crime or creating the safer communities we all want.”

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