by Annabel Sweetnam-Groom
The latest WA mandatory sentencing laws have been criticised by experts in the field of prisoner rehabilitation and criminal behaviour.
Legislation has brought in new mandatory jail terms for offenders who commit assaults during a burglary.
The new laws, will come into effect later this year, will see offenders who commit a violent assault while committing burglary being sentenced for a mandatory seven and-a-half years, while those who commit a sexual assault will face 15 years.
Piers Harbin, a Prisoner Rehabilitation Officer at Acacia Prison says these new mandatory sentencing laws are overly punitive.
“It encourages recidivism, it reduces the chance of rehabilitation and it doesn’t allow the offenders to see what they’ve done.”
Mr Harbin says the ones who will be hurt under the recent laws are the new young offenders who have to live amongst hardened criminals.
“They have to pick up the lifestyle just to survive.”
Mr Harbin says many of the young offenders facing long mandatory sentences often react aggressively and even commit offences while in prison.
“[They say] ‘I may as well blow three years of it on drugs and not remember it.’”
Murdoch University Law lecturer Guy Hall, an expert in criminal behaviour and forensic psychology, says this is simply another attempt for politicians to look tough on crime in the eyes of the public.
“And why do we have such problems? Because politicians are recidivists.”
“It’s just that politicians love crime! It’s their bread and butter,” says Associate Professor Hall, who also sits on the WA Prisoners’ Review Board.
Associate Professor Hall questions why politicians who know nothing about crime and have never studied it believe they know how to prevent and solve it.
“It’s much more about politics than it is about there being anything inherently wrong with the criminal justice system.”
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” he says.