Victoria has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, yet the state’s prison population increased by 70 percent in the last decade while the crime rate remained stable. There’s a relentless push to keep us in a state fear to generate support for the enormous increases in police and prison funding. But what is becoming clear is that the “law and order” policies of the major parties are targeting the poor, the homeless and people of colour, and are creating a more authoritarian society with fewer civil liberties and democratic rights.
The same punitive approach to criminality is not being applied to companies that commit wage theft, that lower safety standards, resulting in workplace deaths, or that engage in tax evasion. And police do not loiter in Toorak or Brighton, harassing residents about where they got their jewellery—that sort of thing happens only in working-class areas.
The erosion of much needed public services such as housing, education, healthcare, and other attacks on our living standards are major contributors to the crime and anti-social behaviour that do exist. But the diversion of public money to running prisons takes away from funding for such services – and from programs that help people to deal with social alienation and to break the cycles of drug abuse and violence that often lead to prison in the first place.
Victorian Socialists will never capitulate to tabloid scare campaigns about crime. We will instead fight for better social services in communities and stand with those who disproportionately bear the brunt of “law and order” policies.
What we think
- Any society based on the ownership of private property will necessarily condemn many people to insecurity and poverty, making crime inevitable.
- Imprisonment is a barbaric and anti-human practice; society should move towards the abolition of prisons.
- In place of a retributive justice system, we should have a restorative justice system.
- The criminal justice system reflects and entrenches the oppression experienced by First Nations peoples.
- The judiciary must not reflect or reproduce economic, social or political inequalities or hierarchies.
- Wealth or privilege should not facilitate greater access to justice.
What we'll fight for
Justice and sentencing
- End the “tough on crime” approach to justice and sentencing, and implement the Human Rights Law Centre’s recommendations for ending the crisis of imprisonment in Victoria.
- Raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.
- Decriminalise public drunkenness and review the Summary Offences Act to identify other similar “crimes” to be repealed.
- Scrap all mandatory sentencing provisions.
- End the “war on drugs”.
- Keep people out of prison by fixing Victoria’s punitive sentencing and bail laws, including by scrapping the presumption against granting bail.
- Reform the parole system to help people leave prison and re-enter the community, with the following measures:
- Increase funding for parole support programs and social services for parolees.
- Guarantee access to public housing for parolees upon release.
- Take the parole system out of the hands of Corrections Victoria and reform it so that it upholds natural justice and supports parolees.
- Increase funding for the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Melbourne Activist Legal Support, the Human Rights Law Centre and other community legal services that cater to marginalised, oppressed or economically disadvantaged communities.
- Instate full political rights for those serving sentences, including the right to vote and the right to stand as candidates.
- Impose quotas on senior judicial appointments, ensuring that those from wealthy backgrounds are not over-represented.
- Introduce or strengthen criminal penalties for corporations and wealthy individuals whose business activities have caused harm to individuals, to society or to the environment.
- Defund the police:
- Reverse all funding increases to Victoria Police over the last decade and redirect it into social welfare spending.
- Develop a plan to progressively de-fund the police.
- Disarm the police:
- Take all military style weapons and hardware out of police hands.
- End police use of so-called non-lethal weapons, including capsicum spray.
- Disarm police officers on patrol.
- Black Lives Matter:
- Immediately fire all police and corrections officers implicated in black deaths in custody, police shootings or other violent conduct.
- Establish a black deaths in custody investigative unit as part of the IBAC.
- End racialised policing.
- Immediately suspended without pay Police officers charged with an indictable offence.
- Introduce mandatory sentences for police officers convicted of an indictable offence.
- End police misogyny: strengthen penalties for police found to have acted in an abusive or misogynistic way towards women.
- Remove the requirement for police to consent to diversion.
- Stop police investigating themselves:
- Complaints against the police should not be referred to the Victoria Police Professional Standards Command for investigation.
- Broaden the terms of reference of IBAC and adequately fund it so that it may rigorously investigate all complaints made against the police.
- Implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission Into Police Informants.
- Launch a Royal Commission into Policing and Police Corruption.
- Strengthen criminal penalties applying to police found guilty of violations and other offences and introduce mandatory prison sentences for police officers found guilty of indictable offences, unless exceptional circumstances can be shown.
- Police the real criminals: Strengthen agencies tasked with investigating and prosecuting criminal business activities, environmental crimes and crimes against First Nations peoples or culture (for example, the destruction of Aboriginal cultural sites by corporations).
- Ban the building of new prisons.
- “Homes Not Prisons”: Reallocate to public housing the budget for prison expansion.
- Reverse the privatisation of Victoria’s prisons.
- Make available voluntary employment for prisoners, paid according to standard Award rates.
- Strengthen independent authorities that can investigate allegations of abuse by prisoners, prison staff and others, and grant them more powers to suspend abusive prison workers and shut down prison facilities that have a systematic culture of abuse.
- Increase all welfare, health, education and cultural services available to people in prison.