The incarceration of Jamie Gregory McCrossen for a quarter of a Century is an indictment on the Tasmanian prison system and the legal framework that supports indefinite sentences to prevent possible crime in the future.
Jamie has served longer in a Tasmanian prison (to prevent any chance he might commit another crime) than the average murderer would serve without bothering to apply for parole. Had he been the average convicted murderer, Jamie would have already served his sentence in full, be a free man and live without supervision. That’s the everyday reality of most murderers. Sentence, parole, release… time served. Very few murderers get Life maximum sentences in Tasmania.
But Jamie isn’t a murderer. Not even close to it. He’s been a lot of things, but not a murderer or rapist. We need to keep that in context.
The down side of the Dangerous Criminal legislation is that fundamentally Jamie’s indefinite incarceration is about the possibility of committing a future crime. It’s incarceration as some perverse prevention measure. Because Jamie threatened a witness in the very early 1990s at the age of 20 while in prison for a robbery he committed 2 years earlier.
Yet here we are about to enter 2017 and the Tasmanian Supreme Court’s decision is that Jamie, now 44 years of age, is so damaged by that incarceration that he cannot be released. Because Jamie cannot be declared “not dangerous”. And if I read that commentary correctly it seemed to be framed in a way that suggested this indefinite sentence be continued for Jamie’s own good. Because, after all, a damaged Jamie, an institutionalised Jamie, is too easy to send back to his cell and disappear so we can all have safe and happy lives.
So, to be clear, I find Justice Shan Tennent’s words from January 2016 more than a little worrying. As should we all.
The responsibility inherent in the incarceration of a citizen – especially when the crime is one not yet committed – has to be that the person involved is not so brutalised by the sentence that they can never return into society.
Yes, I think Jamie Gregory McCrossen should be returned to society. On parole. He’s not a part of any criminal network, gang or affiliation; he’s not a recidivist, or even a serial rapist; he’s somebody who did very stupid things decades ago.
It’s about time that Tasmanian’s gave this guy a break. He’s not an animal.