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Melbourne report calls prisons the 'asylums of the third millennium'

The Jesuits' social research centre in Melbourne has foreshadowed Friday's launch of a report raising serious questions about the use of prisons and tax-payers' money to incarcerate those who are mentally ill.

Crime and Punishment: from retributive to restorative justice is a new report from The Ignatius Centre in Richmond, which presents a potentially disturbing explanation for Australia's rapidly expanding prison population.

"The prison industry is booming, while Australia spends far less on mental health services than comparative countries" the report begins.

Its conclusion is that the 52% increase in the country's prison population over the last decade is not matched by an equivalent increase in serious crime.

This conclusion is confirmed by the figures included in the report indicating that the majority of those in prison in Australia have not been convicted of a violent offence.

Instead resources are being drained from other essential services, like health, education and community support services, including those for the mentally ill.

On the eve of State Elections in Victoria and New South Wales, The Ignatius Centre expects its report to "confront politicians of different political persuasions to be honest about the limitations and the real costs of imprisonment".

The report attacks the myth that increased imprisonment rates will reduce crime and recommends a new approach to meeting the needs of victims and offenders.

It will be launched at The Brosnan Centre in Brunswick on Friday by Mr Justice Frank Vincent of the Victorian Supreme Court and Chairperson the Victorian Adult Parole Board.

Jesuit Social Services

Jesuit Social Services | The Ignatius Centre
Priest says jail being used for wrong purpose (11/4/02)
Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System (A seminar given at the Institute of Criminology on September 4th, 2002 by Judge Frank Walker)
The Department Of Lost Voices (ABC Radio National Radio Eye feature, 19/10/02 - transcript and audio link)

23 Oct 2002