How Much It's Cost To Keep Ivan Milat Behind Bars
You'd be hard-pressed to find an Australian who wants one of the country's most notorious serial killers roaming our streets, but how much has it cost taxpayers to keep Ivan Milat locked up?
The terminally ill 74 year old is dying in prison after a couple of recent hospital visits to treat his cancer.
Milat has spent more than 23 years in maximum-security prisons after being found guilty of murdering seven backpackers in the 1990s.
10 daily analysed annual data from the Australian Institute of Criminology and annual Productivity Commission Reports on Government Services to calculate the the price we've paid for his incarceration (including adjusting inflation).
It has cost Australian taxpayer's around $2,637,511 to keep Milat locked up.
"That doesn't include prisoner health care, or transport services between courts and prison or rehabilitation programs, there are a whole bunch of hidden costs," research fellow from Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) Andrew Bushnall said.
The conservative think tank stressed that violent criminals like Milat must be imprisoned, irrespective of the cost.
"Prisons play a crucial role in keeping the most dangerous people off the streets," he told told 10 daily.
There are currently more than 43,000 people in Australian prisons, which is up 30 percent over the past five years. Taxpayers now spend $4.4 billion on corrective services, most of which goes towards incarceration.
We are the 5th highest OECD nation when it comes to how much we spend on prisons and the nation's incarceration rates are at all-time high.
"Someone like Ivan Milat, he's not getting out and nor should he, dangerous people like him is where our resources should be targeted, but what about all the non-violent people behind bars?" Bushnall said.
Bushnall pointed out that while we spend more on criminal justice than most other developed countries, we often gets worse results.
Since 2016, the IPA's Prison Justice Project is pushing for change because "prisons have ever-increasing costs and no real pay off."
"We need to make a clearer distinction between the people we are mad at and the people we are afraid of," Bushnall said.
"What got us interested in it was the rapid growth of incarceration in particular and the costs of that. It's an area of public policy that because of the apparent good that it secures -- public safety -- there's not a lot of scrutiny."
He says most criminals need be punished in other ways -- out of prison -- while being rehabilitated.
It's a sentiment echoed by Dr Emma Ryan, criminology course director with Deakin’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences.
"I really doubt people are at home thinking 'OK it costs $110,000 to send people to prison for the year, prison rates are going up, where is that money coming from?'" Ryan said.
Ryan says not only is prison "really expensive" but the data shows that crime rights and re-offending is still high and says it's time for our government to embrace "justice reinvestment".
“If imprisonment worked to deter or prevent crime surely there should be virtually no crime after 250 years of building prisons to punish people," she said.
She argues that as many offenders as possible, especially young offenders, should be kept out of prison because of its harmful effects.
Instead of prison, punishment options include community sentencing, restorative justice, programs, decriminalisation of certain behaviours including drug use, and more programs to encourage family support.
The Texan Example: Fewer Prisons, Less Crime
The U.S. state of Texas is often cited as a good example of how to reduce crime without putting more people behind bars.
The southern state managed to close three prisons while making its streets safer by making alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders -- both more available and more effective.
"The root causes are looking at homelessness, domestic violence and mental health services, all the things we know help to shield people from the worst excesses of human behaviour," Ryan said.
In 2007 Texas projected that the state would need to allocate billions for the construction and operation of prisons, including more than 17,000 additional prison beds by 2012.
And far from being just "soft" or "welfare-based" policies, Ryan said "They are saving the community money, saving the government money and impacting crime rates."
In 2007, 15.9 percent of probationers failed and went back to prison, and that figure fell to 14.7 percent by 2015.
"Texas has shown us how you can get a bit more bang for buck in terms of community safety for tax payers," Bushnall said.
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