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IQ2 Debate: Prisons Work

In the last five years, the number of people in custody has risen by a third. Australia's 39,000 prisoners cost over $3.5 billion last financial year.

Prisons serve a range of purposes. They should deter people from committing crimes, rehabilitate offenders, protect the community and punish offenders in proportion to what they’ve done.

But a quick scan of the media shows plenty of times when prisons seem to miss the mark.

One punch laws in NSW introduced lengthy sentences for alcohol fuelled violence, but is anyone really thinking about consequences when they drunkenly attack someone?

Around half of prisoners are repeat offenders, suggesting rehabilitation isn’t working. Plus, images of abuse in correctional facilities and stories of deaths in police custody make it hard to see prisons working in an inmate’s best interests.

Every time a criminal out on parole harms the community, people ask whether the system is actually keeping us safe.

But seeing criminals being punished gives victims, their loved ones and the wider community a sense of justice. It makes a clear statement about our common values and the kinds of behaviour we refuse to tolerate.

Are prisons the best way to deal with crime? Are they in need of reform? Or should we lock our prison doors and throw away the key?

That was the topic of our third IQ2 for 2017, a fresh debate about criminal justice in Australia. We were joined by Julian Burnside, Kerry Tucker, Kerrie Thompson, and Warren Mundine for a heated and informative debate which sparked passionate discussion - not just amongst the speakers, but in between the speakers and and the audience as well.

Thanks to everyone who shared their personal stories with us on the night.

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