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Archive for May, 2013

Ex-Convicts & the Financial Cost of Social Bigotry

Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Australia has a prison population of roughly 30,000 – it’s approximately 93% male with 80% of inmates born in Australia and a median age of 34 years. The median age is directly affected by the number of people serving long sentences because every year sees a stratum of that population age within their sentence.

Look at the age demographic chart – the major bumps are from 20-30 years of age. When you account for the sentencing ages of Australian prisoners it is highly likely the offender was between 16 and 30 years of age.

Also note that the prison system is constantly growing, making it increasingly costly to support. A mere 20 years ago the Australian prison population was half this number at 15,000.

Many more Australians have previously served a sentence within the Australian prison system, although I can’t find that statistic. The combination of serving and those who have served would give us the total of people with a prison record.

Add to this the segment of the population with a police record. Stand outside a local magistrate’s court on any weekday and it’s busy. Courts are in every locality across the country dealing with all manner of events that will impact a person’s police record, and possibly their prison record.

My point is simple. Convicts and ex-convicts are a large demographic in a country of 23 million. Australia is approximately half male, with a potential working population between 15-64 totaling 15 million. Deduct from that figure the unemployment rate and those outside the workforce (approximately 30 per cent of all men, including roughly 800,000 people receiving disability support pensions, home carers, home parents and early retirees).

So here’s the rub. A prison or police record prohibits somebody from all but the rarest employment opportunity regardless of (toothless) human rights legislation, the person’s individual qualification or their ability to perform the job. Ex-convicts, in all except the rarest instances, are not allowed to work as volunteers or be employees of a charity organisation.

We don’t want ex-convicts to cook or touch our food supply, to have access to the young or elderly (bus driver, park mower, removalist), to serve, to clean or to know where we live. Hands off our money, property and, I’m only half joking, our women!

The financial cost of that paradigm to Australia is extreme. We lock out a large proportion of the working age population from employment and opportunity based on a social record of having done bad things. Meaning there are even less workers being asked to support even more people on a welfare system that is often generational.

Sit down and go through those numbers on your fingers. And again. And yet again. Why is this not a major political question in 2013?’

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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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