Alternatives to Imprisonment
The Sentencing Advisory Council has released a report on community attitudes towards the use of alternatives to imprisonment in Victoria. The report is based on the Victorian component of a national survey of public attitudes to sentencing, supported by the Australian Research Council. Survey participants were asked about the use of alternatives to imprisonment as a way of addressing the increasing number of people in prison and as a way of dealing with certain types of offenders. The prison alternatives suggested to participants included supervision, counselling, treatment and community work.
The report found that there was clear support among the survey respondents for using alternatives as a way of addressing prison overcrowding: 74.3% of respondents preferred to ‘increase the use of alternatives to imprisonment’ while 25.7% of respondents preferred a policy of ‘build more prisons’. People were especially supportive of alternatives to imprisonment for mentally ill offenders, young offenders and drug-addicted offenders.
The survey found that support for the use of alternatives to imprisonment was predicted by lower levels of worry about crime and lower levels of punitiveness.
This sample of the Victorian public clearly favours the idea of increasing the use of alternatives to prison such as supervision, treatment and community work. Respondents to this survey were accepting of alternatives to imprisonment as a general policy to reduce prison overcrowding and were especially accepting of specific alternatives for certain offenders. People who had positive attitudes towards the courts and sentencing,
and were less worried about crime, were more likely to accept alternatives to imprisonment. People who were critical of the courts and who were worried about levels of crime were less likely to support alternatives.
These findings provide evidence of community views in Victoria about alternatives to imprisonment and suggest that, contrary to common myths, the Victorian community may not be as punitive as is commonly portrayed.
State Governmnent of Victoria
Sentencing Advisory Council