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Queensland review of legislation/Dennis Ferguson situation

Queensland Public Protection Model For the Management of High Risk Sexual and Violent Offenders.

Here is the Qsld review. 

Below is the JA submission to the Review. Download submission pdf.

 

Tony Keyes

Executive Director, Law and Justice Policy
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ph: 07 340 62120

Justice Action Inclusive Model Response to Proposed Queensland Public Protection Model For the Management of High Risk Sexual and Violent Offenders
Deadline Date: 15 August, 2008.

Introduction

The Queensland Government made this Review into the treatment, and public concern that certain ex-prisoners would continue to offend in the community.

The recommendations set out by the government means that these offenders will always be targeted and labelled, denying them the chance to be part of a normal community. The response is far too restrictive in its nature and proposes no means of restoring these individuals back into society. Many of these recommendations will not solve the community problem as offenders will be forced to face further punishments both socially and psychologically. This will also disturb the community unnecessarily despite the public expectation to be safe.

Review by the Government - the impact

The Review is focused on the concerns about high risk sexual and violent offenders. It brings forward many drastic and coercive proposals such as increasing the power of Corrective Service authorities to control the lives of released prisoners, and widening the category of persons under the risk assessment category. Possible five years supervision orders are proposed, which will be made by corrective services officers in relation to accommodation, treatment, drug and alcohol use.

These recommendations are intended as a guideline in courts and to increase the input by Queensland Corrective Services.

An application is made by the Attorney-General to the Supreme Court in the last six months of the prisoner’s sentence and if an order is granted it takes effect at the expiry of the sentence. This takes two forms – a continuing detention order and a supervision order. If the court issues a continuing detention order it is reviewed annually and the court may determine to release the offender to supervision at one of the annual reviews. If it issues a supervision order, the court can impose a range of conditions including curfews, electronic monitoring, random alcohol and drug testing as well as excluding them from certain organisations or areas such as playgrounds and school.

Offenders subject to supervision orders are strictly monitored and taken back to court if they contravene the conditions of their order.


The Alternative Social Inclusion Approach

Dr Wendell J Rosevear says in his paper “Justice for All” that indefinite sentences for sex offenders will have enormous ramifications as perpetrators may be more likely to kill victims in an attempt to destroy evidence [1]. He suggests that we find solutions that restore the value of individuals and instead of acting tough to seek control of the matter we should instead change our behaviour and provide hope.

Furthermore, he suggests that the importance of seeing people in prison as part of society to motivate love and hope for change and reintegration[2]. Essentially, we need to provide them with services such us one to one counselling in prisons without force by politicians or other bodies, and to ensure that every one of them do feel valued in life in some way.

Mr Rosevear has emphasised rehabilitation as a way of restoring personal value, so offenders can gradually learn from the past and make healthy choices in the future. He condemns the move made by Queensland Corrective Service in removing the word rehabilitations and replacing it with ‘Intervention’[3]. This is seen to be reflecting a power shift which will have little effectiveness in giving prisoners a “fair go”.

Dennis Ferguson - a case to focus on

In recent times we have seen the highly publicised case of Dennis Ferguson, a person convicted of child sex offences, and the community outcry against his presence in Brisbane. It has disturbed over one thousand people locally and shows the problem must be dealt with properly. His living circumstances have been short term, costly and very confined and it has been difficult to return him into the community. This provides an opportunity to examine some of the issues confronting the government and to find a practical solution to assist Dennis to regain a stable, safe living arrangement.

Experts from a recent conference have offered a solution. In July this year the International Conference On Penal Abolition ICOPA XII, held in London, gathered professors and other experts from around the world. They came from countries including Brazil, Norway, Trinidad, Canada, USA, The Netherlands and the UK to discuss prison abolition and the policy agenda.

The second resolution was directed to the Dennis Ferguson case. It read: “Be it resolved: We reject the use of incarceration and other penal measures to deal with community problems. We call on governments to dismantle the prison industrial complex, and we support the development and implementation of non-punitive community-based alternatives.
In the light of the Dennis Ferguson case (note), ICOPA XII calls on the Queensland government to accept the Circles of Support/JA Mentoring offer made by Justice Action, as an alternative to imprisoning him. This measure will satisfy the need of the community to feel and be safe. (note: accused of child sex offences in Australia)”

Proposal for Dennis Ferguson - Community living situation.

Government Funding
Support for the solution to be paid to a service provider - the service provider not to be disclosed. Funding could come from Health, Community Services, crime prevention, federal, or State. But specifically not from Corrective Services or police. At the moment, a lot of money is being spent keeping him safe with no end in sight and no upward path possible. This present proposal provides a full solution offering a permanent resettlement possibility and also the prospect of his achieving a productive life.

Housing
We propose that Dennis be supplied accommodation in a flat/house sharing with another one or two people. Ideally that other person should be support from a family member or at least someone stable.

JA Mentor/ Circles of Support
Some trained support, a mentor employed by the service provider or under contract, and accepted by Dennis, to be with him during the period and extended in the long term.

Dennis must have the option of acceptance of this mentor or offered an alternative, and they must be able to build a trust and confidential relationship. The principles of the JA Mentors Handbook 4th edition should be adopted.

Dennis to be undergoing some course about sexual behaviour and doing some other personal development to legally support himself in a satisfying area. The “circles of support” gather regularly to talk, improve and expand the life of the person at the centre. We strongly encourage this to be specifically addressed to Dennis and his needs in coordination with his mentor.

Security
The same security that applies to the “witness protection scheme” be applied to Dennis due to media interest to expose him and disturb the local community. Only one policeman to be the contact person to ensure compliance with the sex offender registration requirements. This arrangement to ensure that a media approach to corrupt police couldn’t uncover his whereabouts. Only those who need to know his whereabouts would have that knowledge, that decision to be made by the mentor.

Conclusion

Based on the above review we conclude that many of the recommendations in the government Review are really the use of coercive power in order to seem to control the problem, and an attempt by the government to handle the community reaction of moral panic stirred by media interests.

Instead, we must provide offenders with support and give them the power to change themselves. Through this process we gradually foster their returning to society and enhance their ability to work their way back. This would save significant taxpayers’ funds and deal with the issues instead of warehousing and creating problems in an ever-expanding prison system.

[1]Dr W Rosevear, ;Justice for All’, Article , 30.06.06 p.2

[2]ibid p.3

[3]ibid p.7

 

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