Dear Friends and fellow stakeholders,
Re : Satellite Tracking of offenders of serious crime released to community supervision.
AUSTRALIA: WA: It is understandable that the Minister for Justice is looking towards a surveillance program. His department have failed him and need to be constantly under his watchful eye and surveillance of their own key performance indicators.
However, his proposal for using high tech satellite tracking of specific types of offenders in WA could be seen as just another attempt to produce a 'tough on crime' vote winner. Such new technologies always look good on paper. Then comes the serious questions. How does one effectively police it, and will it really act as a deterrent?
Then there is the cost of establishing and maintaining such an operation over one of the largest single jurisdictions in the world. We also need to ask if this plan has been discussed among other government departments such as Police, Family and Childrens' Services, the Aboriginal Policy Unit - and the independent judiciary? Should not the offender be presenting as a low risk to the community when they leave the prison and under the eye of community corrections officers?
Knowing that resistance is strong among perpetrators of Domestic Violence, the further knowledge that someone is looking from far off may not lessen their motivation to be in close proximity to the focus of their attention. And how will police be able to respond? For example, what is going to happen to a person who is living out at Marble Bar or the back of Bruce Rock who is placed on a domestic violence order? By the time that the police get to the scene, the offender may have produced a further victim. Offenders and Victims need real support following the aftermath of crime not pie in the sky Robocop. Surveillance from the sky fails to address violence in the family home.
What we need is a balance here. More surveillance through the support and concerns of Community Corrections officers who need to do more than invite an offender into their office once a week. It takes time and energy, including government resources to challenge offending behaviours, and this and previous governments have failed victims of crime and the community by showing disregard for effective community based and prison programs.
The 'What works' principles have been continually watered down or even neglected in WA, leaving offenders, victims and the community with an Offender management which is itself under review by Justice Mahoney and the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services, and a justice system that seeks the headlines such as this to distract public attention from grass roots failings, high prisoner numbers and a constant stream of dissatisfied victims of crime. The satellite needs to look into the justice department to see what is working and what is not.
We do need to find more support and attention to Strong women's groups and Men's groups, and effective rehabilitation programs that see offenders treated as social beings and not individuals and outcasts from social structures of support. Quality research into this area is essential.
Surveillance techniques will not prevent crime, and will only remove the public gaze from the immediate concerns of a justice system itself requiring constant surveillance.
A pensioner support group has called upon the state government to provide all other people with the same satellite surveillance programs as the Minister of Justice is supplying to ex-prisoners and serious and career criminals.
Spokeswoman for the group, Ms Killjoy, said that the program will be able to be purchased similarly to the new rent-a-cop.
Ms Killjoy say that 'Under the new surveillance scheme, any housebound partner will be able to keep track via satellite of their errant loved one who may have a desire to call in at a house of ill repute or a local casino". 'It will also assist grandparents who wish to keep an eye on the shortcomings of grandchildren as they wander through shopping centre' Malls say Ms Killjoy, 'and of course, it could help parents who may wish to know just where in the neighbourhood, their prized genetic seeds are being sown at any time of the day or night'.
Under the tag-a-mate scheme, any community minded group can purchase hours of tagging and satellite surveillance time and rumour has it that channel 10 is wishing to purchase the rights to screen some footage live to air.
Spokesman for Road-Toll Express says that it will be able to give truck operators and shipping companies a better idea of where the goods are disappearing to, adding "we have wanted to track our truckies who like to stop in the bush for a long pee for some time. Now we can tell just how long some of those stops are, we can't wait for the day when we can get prints to go with it'.
A corporate sponsor for the Minister, says that his company's chocolate product 'time-out' will seek further sponsors in this innovative program that began life as a prisoner watch-dog. 'The possibilities are endless, you can't believe just how far we can ruin someone's fun and impose havoc on civil liberties - this is just the start'. He went on to say that 'Our next big step is to use surveillance link-ups with home surveillance kits, and a state of the art IT package called bedroom peeps - of course this can't be used by ex prisoners, but everyone else will really get a turn-on!
He did concede to the author that this could go against the kind of thing that some prisoners programs had tried to put a stop to.
Brian Steels with some WA humour on the tag-a-mate@ program.
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