Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Once a lag, always a lag?

A friend once described to me how she and two others had gone to prison to visit a gang president to 'buy' her partner's freedom. She stayed in the car but was quite explicit about the intent of the visit and which gang was involved. And I have no reason to doubt the story.

I recalled this episode just now when reading about Jack Yorke, who similarly struck a deal to obtain his release. Looking at the region it may well be the same gang. Unfortunately for Mr Yorke, when the person with whom he had struck the deal died, new blood started demanding money to uphold the agreement. It's so despicable. Yorke, probably something of a wreck from hard living and on a sickness benefit, stole some property to pay the ransom. Then he confessed to the police. It was his first conviction in the 6 years since being released from jail.

Now he is being sent back to prison for 15 months with "special release conditions to assist in rehabilitation."

This raises a few questions in my mind.

1/ What, if anything, is being done about the blackmailing of Mr Yorke?

2/ What is 15 months in prison supposed to achieve? Would it be preferable to spend the $91,000 it costs to house a prisoner each year on buying Yorke a new identity and shipping him off somewhere? In prison it is going to cost 6 times what it currently costs to support him and the fact he stayed out of trouble after 2004 would suggest he is over his life of crime, worn-out most likely.

3/ If Mr Yorke is subject to threats and intimidation on the outside, what chance the authorities can keep him safe on the inside?

4/ And, of course, is Mr Yorke telling the truth, but I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

But perhaps the hard-liners would say, tough. He has to be punished and if he didn't want to do the time, he shouldn't have done the crime. Perhaps Mr Yorke is about to get his comeuppance for his previous life of offending.

And that is exactly where I part company from the hard-liners. Yes, I actually have some sympathy for this character because I imagine he is a burnt-out shell of a man who no longer poses a threat to society. There are plenty more like him hence very few old men are in prison. But more importantly the way the justice system is dealing with him seems to defy logic. There must be better outcomes available for both Yorke and the taxpayer. Surely.

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