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  • Writer's pictureSam Wilks

Exploring the Impact of Probation and Parole on Reducing Incarceration Rates

In the shadowed corridors of justice, probation and parole have stood as twin pillars, holding aloft the ideals of rehabilitation and societal reintegration. Proponents of these systems champion the idea that the human spirit is malleable and capable of transformation, which is obviously true. They believed that we could mend the shattered social fabric by giving offenders a chance for redemption outside of prison walls. However, providing the opportunity and taking the opportunity to change for the better should never have been conflated.

At the core of this belief is an assumption that resonates with my personal belief that all people have value. The idea that individuals, when given the right incentives and faced with the consequences of their actions, will make rational decisions that align with societal norms. In other words, when individuals recognise the benefits of adhering to the rules and regulations of society, they are less likely to reoffend.

However, as I reflect on my extensive experience on the frontlines, I can't help but notice the discrepancies between theory and reality. The stories I've heard, the faces I've seen, and the data I've examined tell a much more horrific tale.

Many leaders and trainers in the field of public security have long emphasised the value of intuitive decision-making, arguing that human behaviour is not always rational. We are creatures of habit, emotion, and environment, and these factors play a significant role in our choices. While probation and parole aim to address these variables by providing support and monitoring, the system is fraught with challenges. In the NT, very obvious failures with direct consequences have left many Territorians murdered at the hands of offenders released by an inept, incompetent, or wilfully corrupt judiciary and parole boards.

For one, the infrastructural support for those on probation or parole is often lacking. Without proper guidance, mentorship, and resources, individuals are set up to fail. The convicted murderer Ben Hoffman let bureaucrats know of his addiction to methamphetamines well before his mass murder, and the lack of support and response hasn't led to one person losing their job or any "support" staff held accountable for their failure. Placing someone in an environment rife with temptations and triggers without adequate support is akin to throwing them into a lion's den and expecting them not to be devoured. We know that the biggest influence on success is proximity, so much so, that the NT government in 2006 passed the justice Legislation (Group Criminal Activities) Act 2006, which included association restrictions for identified gang members. However, we can all plainly see that they do not enforce it.

Another significant concern is the inconsistency in the application of probation and parole. It has also been widely reported that the criteria for granting these privileges vary widely, often influenced by external factors such as public opinion or political pressure. Such inconsistencies not only erode public trust but also create an environment where justice is not blind but rather sees through a distorted lens.

Furthermore, the failures of probation and parole are not merely theoretical but are evident in the numbers. Recidivism rates are alarmingly high, indicating that many offenders, once released, find themselves back behind bars. This cycle of crime and punishment drains resources, both financial and human, and does little to address the root causes of criminal behaviour.

It's essential to clarify that the idea behind probation and parole is not inherently flawed. The underlying principle is noble. It's the execution and the surrounding ecosystem that often fall short. Systems and policies must evolve in response to the changing dynamics of society.

So, where do we go from here? In my view, a multi-pronged approach is required.

First, as obvious as the large nose on my face, we need more prison beds, a larger prison capacity, and greater investment in protecting the public.

Second, we need a more consistent and transparent system for granting probation and parole. This requires collaboration between policymakers, some legal experts, and security professionals to create a framework that is both just and effective. The current system relies on taxpayer-funded NGO's, offender advocacy groups, bureaucrats, and an activist judiciary, all of whom are financially incentivised by the growth in the crime crisis. It seems like every victim advocacy representative is dismissed. The Chief Minister's abhorrent smirk at the mention of the death of a 19-year-old murdered in their workplace is an obvious punch in the face of his grieving parents.

Thirdly, we must audit the investment in community-based programs that address the root causes of crime, such as poverty, lack of education, and substance abuse. The lack of accountability and obvious rorting need to stop. These methods are supposed to work, but somehow the lack of KPI's, credibility, and accountability has removed almost any sense of trust in these institutions. Then we need to bring in new and better programs without the influence of those that have scuttled the past programs. By tackling these issues head-on, we reduce the likelihood of individuals turning to crime in the first place.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we must change our societal mindset. Rather than viewing those who have erred as irredeemable, we must recognise their potential for growth and transformation. This perspective emphasizes the importance of personal responsibility while also acknowledging the complex interplay of external factors. Parole and probation should not only be earned; they should also require future performance indicators. If an initial judgment was for 4 years and someone is paroled two years early, then they aren't free and clear of responsibility; they need to continue to prove themselves over the remaining two years.

While probation and parole have shown evident failures in reducing incarceration rates, they remain powerful tools in the arsenal of justice. With thoughtful reform and a shift in perspective, we can harness their potential for the betterment of society. As we tread this path, let us remember that the journey towards justice is long and winding, but with persistence and collaboration, we can achieve a brighter, more equitable future. Criminals behind bars, can't harm the public! From the author. The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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