27 March 2010

Crime Stats and corrections

The Australian Institute of Criminology has released a 139 page compendium Australian crime: facts and figures 2009.

The compendium draws on administrative and survey-based data collections and for the first time features national offender data derived from the first Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) survey highlighted elsewhere on this blog. It also contains data, from the Australian Payments Clearing Association, on financial instruments fraud.

The summary notes that
• Property crime, including theft of motor vehicles, remained the most commonly reported class of crime, with just over 800,000 incidents in 2008; although recorded crime data show that property crime offences continue to decline each year.
• Victimisation survey data suggest that victims are much less likely to report experiencing a violent crime than they are a property crime. Assault was the most common violent crime, with 170,277 victims recorded in 2008 (down slightly on the figures for 2007).
• Most offenders were male. The offending rate for people in the 15 to 19 years age cohort was almost four times the rate of all other offenders in 2007–08.
The AIC comments that -
Although the availability of national statistics on major crimes continues to improve, nationally-consistent data on offenders and emerging crimes, including cybercrime, remain unavailable. Furthermore, recording issues affecting particular crimes, such as assault and sexual assault, limit the ability to confidently identify real trends in these crimes over time.
It goes on to report that -
• Fines were the most common penalty issued by the courts. However, it should be noted that there was a 1.4 percent rise in prison numbers, with 27,615 persons in prison on 30 June 2008. The rate per 100,000 of adult males and females serving community correction orders decreased by 18 percent for adult males and 19 percent for adult females.
• Australia’s recurrent expenditure on the criminal justice system in 2007–08 was approximately $10 billion. A large part of government expenditure on criminal justice is for law enforcement; in 2007–08 there were 48,024 sworn state and territory police officers employed across the nation.
The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in a new 12 page report [PDF] on Prison populations and correctional outlays: the effect of reducing re-imprisonment meanwhile argues that modest reductions in the rate at which offenders are re-imprisoned would result in substantial savings in prisoner numbers and correctional outlays.

58% of all persons given a prison sentence are subsequently re-imprisoned, with the average time to the next prison sentence being 13 months. In the case of Indigenous prisoners, the rate of return to prison (74%) is even higher. The average time to the next prison sentence for Indigenous offenders given a prison sentence is 11 months.

The Bureau estimates that a 10% reduction in the overall re-imprisonment rate (ie to 52%) would reduce the NSW prison population by more than 800 inmates, saving $28 million per year. A 10% reduction in the Indigenous re-imprisonment rate (ie to 66%) would reduce the Indigenous sentenced prisoner population in NSW by 336 inmates, resulting in annual savings of more than $10 million.

The report notes that state and territory governments around Australia have tried to contain prison population growth in the past through the creation of alternatives to custody. Most of these alternatives, however, had been used on offenders would not have gone to prison anyway.

22 March 2010

AIC on Proceeds of Crime

The Australian Institute of Criminology has released the 40 page A review of confiscation schemes in Australia [PDF] by Lorena Bartels as part of its Technical and Background Paper series.

The paper reflects research by the AIC for the Criminology Research Council. It argues that the confiscation of "illegally obtained proceeds of crime -
is a key strategy for disrupting criminal activity, especially serious and organised crime. Confiscation ... serves a number of purposes. First, it seeks to deter crime by reducing its profitability, as well as diminishing offenders' ability to finance further criminal activity. In addition, compensation schemes aim to redress imbalances by compensating society for the adverse impacts of criminal activity and reimbursing the state for the costs of incurred in fighting crime. Finally, there is public utility in demonstrating to the community that crime 'does not pay'.
Bartels notes that in Australia recovery of crime proceeds involves two mechanisms. Conviction based recovery enables the recovery of assets associated with a crime after a conviction for that crime has been secured. In contrast, non-conviction (or civil) based recovery allows the restraint and recovery of assets suspected of criminal origins without the necessity of securing a criminal conviction.

All Australian states and territories, except Tasmania, have legislation allowing for both non-conviction and conviction based recovery.

The paper identifies the background to confiscation schemes and key recent developments, including examination of the effectiveness of legislative efforts to disrupt and dismantle 'serious and organised crime groups' and associations with such groups. The paper offers an overview of the key statutes in each jurisdiction, notably the operation of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth). Data on each jurisdiction's confiscation legislation is discussed. The paper calls for more systematic processes for recording and reporting information that data.

21 March 2010

Don't let's be beastly

Have finished reading Emmanuel Faye's Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 2009), complete with quotes by the slippery Hans-Georg Gadamer and unsurprisingly outrageous statements by Carl Schmitt, while listening to a defunct lounge lizard ...
Don't let's be beastly to the Germans
When our victory is ultimately won,
It was just those nasty Nazis who persuaded them to fight
And their Beethoven and Bach are really far worse than their bite
Let's be meek to them -
And turn the other cheek to them -
And try to bring out their latent sense of fun.
Let's give them full air parity -
And treat the rats with charity,
But don't let's be beastly to the Hun.
On to The Kercher Reports: Decisions of the NSW Superior Courts, 1788-1827 (Sydney: Francis Forbes Society for Australian Legal History 2009) edited by Bruce Kercher & Brent Salter. Murder, theft, forgery, defamation, rape, questions about rule of law and evidence, Governor Bligh, execution of a pig that was the object of a convict's amorous activity, detinue, highwaymen, an offender having his ears nailed to the pillory ... alas no cannibalism