No room for all offenders

By Shepparton News

Media statewide cannot all be inflating the issue — something has gone awry in our judicial system.

There are clearly too many prisoners and alleged offenders on remand, and not enough cells and beds to hold them.

Even Victoria Police has gone on the record admitting its resources are at capacity — and as an institution it rarely enters the political fray.

Magistrates and judges are openly criticising the process as cases are interrupted when the accused cannot be brought to trial because there is nowhere to put them.

The number of accused awaiting trial has reportedly risen from a steady 18 per cent five years ago to about one third of all incarcerated persons today.

In raw numbers, that equates to 1238 people awaiting trial in jail in June 2014, rising to 2711 for June this year.

More delays mean more strain on the system, and the cycle repeats.

The News is not objecting to the raft of new laws that have been passed during recent years, beginning with the abolition of suspended sentences.

Sentences have been increased. Bail laws have been tightened.

In recent weeks, mandatory sentences passed the Victorian lower house for offenders who assault our first responders.

There is a correlation between the tough-on-crime stance of the Labor government and the Opposition and a drop in crime rates, although experts differ on the cause.

But what seems abundantly clear is that resources to contain the resulting increase in incarcerated criminals and those awaiting trial are inadequate, both in our police stations and in our prisons.

Promising tougher sentences and passing tougher laws is relatively easy compared to finding the budget funds to effectively implement that tougher stance.

The money needs to be found or we will simply be swapping the issue of a ‘‘soft’’ judicial system for the issue of an unworkable one.