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Failure of Imprisonment - An Australian Perspective

NCJ Number
R Tomasic; I Dobinson
Date Published
164 pages
This book investigates the rehabilitation failure of imprisonment in the Australian prison system and considers historical background, views on punishment, and the community corrections movement.
It proposes that future reforms of the prison system should move in the direction of emptying prisons and that alternatives ought not to result in new forms of coercion. To achieve this goal, however, the prison institution will have to be removed from the center of the corrections system. Alternative correctional methods such as probation, halfway houses, and community service orders will have to become separate sentencing alternatives. These reform measures should be viewed not so much as humanitarian but as a needed bureaucratic response to the prevailing socioeconomic climate in which traditional incarceration is difficult to justify. The notions of punishment, dangerousness, and the so-called dangerous offender should be reassessed since ambiguities exist in the motivation, aims, and definition of traditional retributionist doctrines, deterrence, and social defense. Current practices in prison work and education programs indicate inequities in prisoner access to such programs; lack of appropriate equipment, personnel, and planning for education; and a generally degrading punishment orientation of most work programs. Alternatives to imprisonment currently practiced in community corrections projects bear ominous potential for manipulation and coercion and eventual pervasive intrusion of the social control mechanism into the community. Parole should be abolished because it involves prediction of future behavior. This prediction is poorly justified and, moreover, affords the offender little or no judicial protection. Conversely, probation should be maintained and expanded. Both the sentencing and revocation levels should be under judiciary control, while on-the-street supervision and aftercare should be administered by a separate probation agency. Above all, innovative alternatives need to be clearly and completely separated and distinguished from the traditional prison system and the ethos and culture of imprisonment. Tabular data, a bibliography, and an index are provided.