Just one more of a long line of futile do-gooder fantasies -- This one emanating from the Leftist bureaucracy of Queensland, apparently. Like all such programs -- such as the famous Barlinnie Special Unit -- they tend to create a less stressful and pleasanter atmosphere for inmates and warders alike -- but they do not reduce rates of reoffending and they are costly. They also require especially dedicated staff to work at all. Story of the admittedly brave dreamer behind the Barlinnie experiment here
Convicted criminals are enjoying days out on the Great Barrier Reef, fishing and surfing trips and oyster-gathering at the beach as a reward for good behaviour in a taxpayer- funded program aimed at keeping them out of jail.
Attorney-General Cameron Dick yesterday told The Sunday Mail he has ordered an urgent review of the Government's multi-agency programs that offer offenders a stint in rehab instead of jail.
Drug and alcohol-addicted offenders in the programs have faced court charged with crimes including domestic violence, assault, drug possession and public drunkenness. Offenders are given free surfing lessons on the Gold Coast, fishing trips off Townsville, and crab and oyster hunting near Cairns. The recreational and cultural activities are delivered by non-government agencies in a bid to encourage a new life away from crime and drug and alcohol addiction.
Mr Dick said he was concerned by the recreational content of some programs, and it did not meet community expectations. It was unacceptable for Drug Court offenders to be involved in the activities, he said. "While I'm no expert, I'd like to see more sensible, practical forms of rehabilitation," he said. "I don't think it's what the community expects offenders to be involved in, and neither do I. "I've spoken to my director-general, and I've made it abundantly clear to her that I don't want this to happen again."
Victims of crime and the Opposition slammed the activities, saying the soft approach was a slap in the face for victims. Gindaja Treatment and Healing Centre at Yarrabah, south of Cairns, operates five beds for clients diverted from jail in a $900,000, three-year pilot scheme for men convicted of alcohol-related crimes [i.e. blacks. Yarrabah is a black settlement].
The centre's chief executive Ailsa Lively told The Sunday Mail a cultural program includes trips to beaches to collect oysters, crab-hunting and fishing. Participants are also given accredited training, literacy and numeracy lessons, and taught to sew and tend vegetable gardens. "They're given an opportunity to go back to their roots because they forget about all of their cultural needs when they're caught up in alcohol," she said. "A lot of people - indigenous and non-indigenous - do recreational activities".
Rehabilitation service Ozcare has a program for criminals from the Drug Court and offers fishing trips in Townsville and days at the beach for clients in Cairns. "We've got elements in the programs that are part of the therapeutic and recreational streams," northern region manager Coralie Friend said. "They can't participate in recreation until they've done chores such as keeping the house clean, doing the washing, and grocery shopping. "Recreational activities are things that will use their energy, things they can practise and afford in their life once they complete the program. "It includes normal stuff like fishing and going to the beach. It's an excellent program."
Brisbane's Paul Stanley, who set up a support and education foundation after his son Matthew died after being bashed outside a party in 2006, was disgusted by the soft treatment. "It's another slap in the face for victims," he said.
Opposition police spokesman Vaughan Johnson demanded a review of the program. "It's a blatant abuse of taxpayers' money," he said.
The above story by Gavin King appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on May 24, 2009
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