August 6th, 2009 at 03:50am
A story from Victoria’s Herald Sun about Aboriginal criminals in New South Wales being given a non-prison option simply because they are Aboriginal.
YOUNG indigenous offenders could be sent to work on a cattle farm in northern NSW instead of jail in an Australian first aimed at curbing incarceration rates.
The property Balund-a, near Tabulam in the state’s far north, will house up to 50 men and women aged between 18-35 who would otherwise be sent to prison.
Corrective Services Minister John Robertson said he wanted to address the high indigenous incarceration rates, with more than one in five inmates in NSW jails of Aboriginal descent.
Well Mr. Robertson, it will certainly do that…but how many 50-people-per-year farms are you going to need in order to make a useful dent in those statistics? And what exactly are you trying to get at with this sentence?
Mr Robertson said so far, 13 of the 14 would-be inmates who have spent time at Balund-a have avoided time behind bars upon their return to court.
There is no context for this sentence. Either it means that 14 people who have been to the farm so far have re-offended and didn’t receive a court sentence, in which case I fail to see how it’s related to the story, or it means that people sent to this farm are being sent back to court once they are done, so that a judge can have a look at their report card and decide whether to send them to court, which would be an amazing waste of time for an already overcrowded court system.
Mr Robertson continued:
“If we can keep 50 young Aboriginal men and women in this region out of prison each year and give them a chance to make something of their lives, then the program has been a success.”
And what about the rest of us? If Aboriginal offenders are worthy of a rehabilitation farm, why aren’t the rest of us worthy of it? What makes them so special?
The most amazing thing about all of this is that, elsewhere in the country, similar programs are being conducted in prisons, not outside of them.
It is based on existing Aboriginal programs in prisons such as Yetta Dhinnakkal near Brewarrina and Warakirri at Ivanhoe.
Is Mr. Robertson so obsessed with statistics that he can’t see his way to implementing such programs in the safe environment of his state’s prisons rather than on remote farms?
Regardless, as long as such programs are being offered to Aboriginal offenders and not to everyone else, it’s a racist policy.
Apparently the percentage of people in prisons who are Aboriginal has never been higher, and the government wants to lower that percentage. That’s understandable, but perhaps it’s time that they investigated the living conditions of Aboriginal children. Aborigines aren’t criminals by nature any moreso that white folk (for lack of a better term) are, so there has to be a reason why they are growing up and turning in to criminals at a much higher rate than everyone else. I think it has to do with the way they are being raised as children.
Over the years I have seen many Aboriginal families come and go through the area in which I live. Almost all of them have been visited quite regularly by the police, almost all of them have been “known” as drug-dealing households, and almost all of them have had incredibly foul children. What chance do these kids have? It’s a well established fact that the pre-primary school years have a huge impact on children and shape their future. If you grow up in a household with criminal tendencies (or worse) then you are very likely to see such activity as “normal”…your morals will have been corrupted. If the government is serious about preventing Aborigines from becoming criminals, then it needs to take a good, hard look at the environment in which these children are growing up.
Once they’re all grown up and out there causing havoc, and on “not you again” basis with the local cops, it’s too late for “rehabilitation programs”. By that stage what is needed is the solitary confinement prison system which I have talked about before.