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Monday, 21 November 2011
Page: 12889


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (11:32): After the previous contribution I would like to bring people back to the real world. As for people not being incarcerated: in the last state elections the new Liberal Party attorney-general of New South Wales, Greg Smith, did something that has been long overdue. He called for a stop in the race between Labor and Liberal to imprison more people, to create more jails and to spend millions more dollars with regard to incarceration.

And as for people not being jailed, in New South Wales an estimated 50,000 people a year go through our jail system. Increasingly they are people on remand—people who have not been sentenced and people who have subsequently been found to be innocent. It is costing the Australian taxpayer an increasing amount of money. Between 2002-03 and 2006-07 the annual expenditure on prisons in New South Wales went up by four per cent. This increase is greater than what we are spending on the police force. It is also interesting to note that 60,000 Australian children a year are affected by their family members being in jail.

The member for Aston talked about respect and about Aboriginals taking responsibility for themselves et cetera, somehow implying that this was perhaps not integral to their reality. It is interesting to note that these areas of discrimination about who is in prison are universal; they are international. In the United States blacks, who constitute 12.6 per cent of the population, constitute 39.4 per cent of the prison population. Hispanics constitute 16.3 per cent of the population but constitute 20.6 per cent of the prison population.

Michelle Alexander in the book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness has commented that the United States currently imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid. I have had the opportunity of being in the Netherlands to see a system that is regarded internationally as very progressive, but you see the same pattern there: the Surinamese—people from Dutch Guiana in South America—have incredibly higher incarceration rates than the general population.

There are certain other characteristics of those in prison. I refer to the inquiry undertaken by the Liberal Party MLC in New South Wales, John Ryan, in 2002 with regard to New South Wales prisons. He showed that 60 per cent of people in prisons are fundamentally illiterate, 60 per cent of them do not have year 10 education, 64 per cent of them do not have a stable family and greater than 60 per cent of them have a history with illicit drugs. It is interesting to note that in the current failure and the increasing money that we are spending on this system that one-third of New South Wales prisoners are re-imprisoned within two years. We have to ask ourselves whether that is money that is well spent. As I said, this has more to do with people's socio-economic circumstances, with their ethnicity, with their problems with mental disorders and with regard to their educational limits than it does with believing that this can somehow be cured by showing respect to people.

There was an interesting article in last week's Guardian Weekly by George Monbiot:

In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results with the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients.

Elsewhere in the article:

In their book, Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that, as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic traits are more likely to be selected and rewarded. Reading their work, it seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you're likely to go to business school.

There is a clear correlation in this country between incarceration rates and people who have dysfunctional families, who have psychiatric disorders and who have deprivation in life.

There are measures that can be undertaken. One simple one that has been suggested in my local area is bail houses to make sure that people who are homeless and who cannot get bail actually have another option rather than going to jail while they are waiting for their case to be heard.

I recommend the resolution, and I particularly stress the socioeconomic factors in imprisonment rates in this country.