Imprisonment as a form of social control has not been fulfilling its purpose. Despite the decreasing crime rates, there has been an increase in prison population and in the twelve-month period ending 30 June 2014, recidivism worsened with 45.8% of released NSW prisoners returning to prison within two years. As a result, Australian prisons are seriously overcrowded, with multiple negative consequences for prisoners, their families and the community, and funds vital to the improvement of rehabilitative community services have been absorbed by the prison system (see Failure of Imprisonment for further analysis).
Therefore, alternatives to prison should be used to reduce the number of prisoners, which subsequently improves the quality of prison life while lowering the financial costs to society.
The following six research papers explore alternatives to imprisonment:
- Justice Reinvestment
- Restorative Justice
- Intensive Corrections Orders
- Electronic Monitoring
- Home Detention
The proposed alternatives are not mutually exclusive. Coercive measures such as Intensive Corrections Orders (ICOs) can be used with other, more supportive methods, such as mentoring, to encourage rehabilitation. These alternatives to imprisonment will reduce the resources strain on our community and allow them to be better distributed towards rehabilitative facilities. Alternatives that focus on rehabilitation should also be considered in order to help the offenders reintegrate into society and reduce reoffending. The prison environment is hostile, which puts prisoners in a negative and fearful situation that does not promote self-reflection, rehabilitation and learning. Focus should be placed on reconciling the offender with the victims and society, providing a conducive and forgiving environment for offenders to learn from their mistakes. These measures require collaborative relationships with jurisdictions and the practical implementation of the recommendations, further research and amendment.