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We Need to Rethink the Revolving Door

Australians have an expensive prison system based on the early Industrial Revolution paradigm – large physical barriers to prevent escape; we employ armed guards empowered to maim and kill almost anybody incarcerated under the British model of perpetual psychological (and physical) violence.

If you think otherwise then you haven’t ventured inside any of Her Majesty’s maximum (or medium) security prisons. We employ thuggery to engage thugs; no more, no less.

By far the vast majority of Australian prisoners eat meals under the rifle, shower under the rifle, walk, talk and wipe their arses on a publicly exposed toilet under the rifle. Partly on the pretext of security; mostly, because we demand our pound of flesh. And if they are supplied individual showers in cells to combat the systemic rape issue we’re the first to be offended… a statement that appears to condone the rape of sixteen-to-twenty year old boys in the mind of average Australians.

And we have this type of prison system because as a society we clamour for it. We demand our revenge. There are other ways to manage criminals and people who fall outside the maxims of society but we prefer this system because we like to fool ourselves that it works. Despite the reality that it hasn’t cured crime in centuries of infliction mostly upon the lower socio-economic demographic.

Worst of all, while we complain about the cost of the infamous revolving door of our prison system there is one single undeniable truth about the door that never gets a mention – it’s revolving because we, the Australian people, are pushing it. First we treat every prisoner as a normal distribution for escape and social threat (our prisons are designed to meet this expectation) and then we pursue our revenge for decades beyond the sentence served to ostracise the vast majority of these men and women from any capacity to earn a living into their future.

And we often release them with court-imposed economic debt due to their original crime, they are released without secure housing, are very unlikely to have a job to go to, they are constrained by the only social group they can belong to (serving and ex-cons), they are under-educated and socially excluded and we begrudginly throw each of them the bone of a full Centrelink benefit the day they are released and the following fortnight a half a Centrelink benefit. That in itself incites an awful lot of television sets to be stolen… the second fortnight has to be survived on HALF A CENTRELINK BENEFIT (unless something has dramatically changed since I last experienced it)… and the door revolves young Australians back into prison where thuggery is employed to engage thugs.

Don’t think that stealing a meal in Australia has any less brutal consequences on a life than 18th century transportation. If anything, transportation offered a hope that we fail to provide our modern prisoners and ex-cons. A new life beyond their sentence. A chance. Hope. The ability to start a new life.

Ultimately we complain, as Australians. We whine about the social cost of their behaviour and the economic cost of the revolving door and the tax slug and the insurance slug and the endemic drug and alcohol problems associated with crime. But don’t for a second think we don’t demand this system. It’s an expectation on Australian political parties that they be tough on crime.

Which is entirely different to trying to resolve crime or reduce its economic impact.

Think about what I’m saying for just one minute. We refuse to hire ex-cons. We refuse to insure them or let them open or run businesses, we refuse to rent housing or let ex-cons live in certain areas. Slowly but surely we’ve cut off occupation after occupation from ex-cons despite legislation about discrimination against people on the basis of their police record.

We like to think how bad the convicts were treated in the 18th and 19th centuries but the truth is that they were treated better than today in one all important respect.

If somebody served their time in Port Arthur they were free to start a fresh life as a law-abiding citizen. Many opened successful businesses without that societal revenge extending further. In today’s world, average Australians make that almost impossible and we prefer our ex-cons revolving right back to where we keep sending them. Thuggery employed to engage thugs.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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