Law reform

After writing about the problems caused by anti-drug laws and the policing thereof, I came across a similar observation on Crikey. Or Croakey, as they call their health blog. Dr Alex Wodak, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation asks why the policeman in the bungled Bankstown raid had to die?

Live policeman returning a bag of medical marijuana

He looks at the bigger picture of violence and anti-drugs laws with reference to a review of studies in this area. The motive behind tough drug laws and policing is generally to reduce violence or drug use. What the review showed probably won’t surprise anyone who’s been watching this situation without the blinkers of media-fabricated overlearned stereotypes.

The authors searched several major data bases for scientific studies of drug law enforcement and violence. They initially identified 306 studies for analysis of which 15 met the required scientific standards and were further evaluated. Of these 15 studies, 13 (87%) found that more intensive drug law enforcement increased drug market violence.

Nine of the 11 studies (82%) employing sophisticated statistical analyses of longitudinal data found that more intensive drug law enforcement increased violence. One study (9%) using a theoretical model concluded that more intensive drug law enforcement reduced violence.

The review is available online if you’d care to read the original.

Dr. Wodak was the director of drug and alcohol services at St Vincent’s hospital in Sydney when the AIDS epidemic broke out in Australia. He set up the first needle exchange program in spite of the law at the time. There are now many needle exchanges going in all states of Australia and a medically supervised injecting centre in Kings Cross. This is, however, only scratching the surface of much deeper problems.

The war on drugs was a colossal, expensive failure, but we have committed to building a new prison every year for the next seven years. When will Australians cotton on that you can’t imprison your way out of social problems? Prisons should be seen as a last resort, not a first resort.

That’s a good question. Why are Australian taxpayers and families left with the financial and social burden of bad legislation passed by desperate or lazy politicians and supported by self-serving media with profit agendas?

In another article from the ADLRF this situation is referred to as a “law and order auction”.

Locking up prisoners is expensive, costing more than $70,000 per inmate per year. If Victoria had the incarceration rate of NSW, the cost of its penal system would be increased by close to half a billion dollars every year.

The state would have to raise taxes, borrow, or cut health and education or other services. Is this what Victorians really want?

A lot of people have to be locked up to reduce the crime rate even slightly – and benefits are only short term. In the long term, prison may have a negative effect by actually increasing crime. About half the prisoners released from jail are back again within two years. As Douglas Hurd, a retired senior British conservative politician, said in the 1990s, ”Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse.”

‘Making bad people worse’ might strike one as being a fairly unsympathetic view of human beings who are criminalised, however the effects of prison on the majoprity of people who are gaoled for any length of time is undisputed. Judges such as Michael Kirby and John Nicholson have been outspoken in their criticisms of Australia’s penal system.

The sentencing judge does his or her best, hoping the imposed sentence provides an end result that benefits society through greater protection of the community. Yet a moment’s thought will reveal this notion’s bizarreness.

Sending people to jail is recognised as counter-productive to rehabilitation, and recidivism rates for ex-prisoners are high. True, custody offers temporary protection to the community from all offenders for the time each may be in prison, but the long term impact of the imposed sentence is forgotten or ignored.

Today's headlines

The stupidity of drugs laws and incarceration are not only expensive and counter-productive for community security, they serve to continually reinforce stereotypes and maintain a kind of emotional moralism in voters who are too busy or stressed to dig past the mainstream media’s pre-packed infomercial sewerage.

The media have been investing in the creation of overlearned stereotypes for decades. It’s a kind of emotional trigger that one becomes conditioned to. A little like Pavlov’s dog and the bell. Rather than asking “do we really want to spend $500,000 more on prisons?” when some talking head starts up about being “tough on crime”, the pre-conditioned response is to be either angry at druggies or scared of crime. Either reaction suits the purveyors of stereotypical swill.

The same kind of emotionally conditioned responses may be observed when the media pushes buttons about Feminists, Muslims, communists or anyone/thing else that disagrees with Rupert Murdoch’s view of the world. It’s good for his bottom line and the politicians and corporations with vested interests, but it does no good for the community, families, or human beings that have to live with the results.

Evidence based research consistently shows that the best way to reduce crime is “early intervention”. This is a combination of education, health care and other support for families and children at risk. Exactly the kind of sensible community programs that have to beg for meager funding and suffer accusations of being pinko fronts, that can really do the most good for the least cost. But there’s more money in abuse, so that’s what we see in the media.

Aside from spurious suggestions about the possibly left-leaning motivations of teachers, what exactly would be the problem with funding pre-schools, schools, health care and public housing in Victoria? If we were serious about creating a safer community and dealing with crime, we have the option of ignoring screeches for zero-tolerance enforcement and considering a community of human beings as individuals and families rather than a source of income for corporations.

And thus, the third citizen identified issue for the Victorian election campaign is a requirement for evidence based reviews of legislation, policing and incarceration, early intervention initiatives and necessary welfare, education, housing and health funding. The basis of a civilised society really. Dunno what Murdochistan is pushing.


About Syburi

Witch, bitch, creatrix; hippie, dreamer, gardener. Lover of books, music, rescue animals, piss and vinegar.
This entry was posted in Australia, ausvotes, sock puppets, sustainable community, the bad joke and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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