Harms of Imprisonment With Reference to Australian ‘Prison Estate’

The Australian “prison estate” is archetypally represented in imprisonment as the foremost type of punishment espoused by the criminal justice system. However, imprisonment has been routinely been criticized as a counterproductive alternative which ultimately presents numerous harms a wide array of players. Imprisonment without a clear foundational practice to guide the correction of offender’s demeanour is counterproductive and likely to account for a high recidivism rate in the country. A lowered age of responsibility as outlined in the Victorian criminal justice system now accounts for the disproportionate population of interned juveniles with almost two-thirds of this population consisting of individuals with pending sentences

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            Imprisonment within is a taxing venture which occasions a great deal of economic harm to the nation. The increase in the number of offenders across the territory often linked to lowering of the age of responsibility to the age of 10 years and an exponential increase in illicit drug offences has created unexpected increase the number of individuals housed in such facilities. It is now estimated that A$ 14 billion is spent annually to guarantee the provision of correctional service and a worrying statistic especially in these uncertain times (Committee for Economic Development of Australia 2019). With an overall incarceration rate of 336 per every 100,000 individuals in the adult population, at a cost of $222 daily for incarceration, prisons are not economically and bound to introduce an added social cost in the near future.    

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The overall increase in the number of individuals incarcerated in Australia has also shed light on the adverse impact of imprisonment on prisoner’s physical and mental health.  In the past decade, an increase in the spate of prosecutable offences in Australia has translated into an abrupt influx in the prison population. This is further exacerbated by the fact that a sizeable majority of incarcerated individuals hail from low socioeconomic background and with a higher rate of substance abuse issues (Levy et al. 2017). Imprisonment, therefore, predisposes them to health complications, chronic diseases, and mental health problems associated with lower socioeconomic groups.

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