Greens call for closure of two Victorian prisons

Australian Greens

The Victorian Greens have launched an election pitch to close two state prisons so that more money can be directed towards services proven to improve community safety, such as housing and early intervention programs.

The plan would see Barwon Prison and Loddon Prison closed by mid-2023.

Affected maximum-security prisoners would be transferred to the new Chisholm Road Prison, while medium-security prisoners would be transferred to the Ravenhall, Hopkins, Marngoneet and Fulham prisons.

Roughly 75 per cent of affected staff would be redeployed to other prisons while redundancy packages would be provided to the remaining 25 per cent.

An independent Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) costing has found that the plan would save $215.1 million over the next decade.

Prior to the pandemic the Victorian Labor Government had increased the rate of spending on police and prisons more than any other portfolio area.

Despite this they have not been able to point to any evidence that any of these billions of dollars have improved community safety.

The Greens want to see future state governments commit to closing prisons rather than opening new prisons and expanding existing ones.

This money should instead go towards services that prevent Victorians – and record numbers of First Nations people – from being sent to prison in the first place, like public housing, rehabilitation and mental health services.

The Greens’ justice election platform will also scrap the $300 million dollars set aside in this year’s State Budget for additional police recruitment, after a recent report from the Auditor-General found there was no evidence Victoria’s $2 billion dollar investment in police numbers was needed, or had improved community safety.

They also want to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, and fix bail laws that have led to a record 11.8 per cent of prisoners identifying as First Nations, and First Nations women becoming the fastest growing demographic in Victorian prisons.

A PBO costing has revealed that by implementing all the Greens’ justice policies the state would save three billion dollars over the next decade, all of which the Greens plan to invest in proven early intervention crime prevention programs and services.

As stated by Victorian Greens justice spokesperson, Dr Tim Read:

“While smarter countries are closing prisons and lowering crime, in Victoria our state government is funnelling billions into prisons and police.

“This is despite the fact that study after study has revealed this does not improve community safety.

“The government should be investing this money in the things that actually prevent offending in the first place.

“The current Victorian Labor Government has imprisoned more First Nations people than any other Victorian government on record.”

As stated by Victorian Greens Northcote candidate, Campbell Gome:

“The Greens are not willing to silently accept the record increases in First Nations Victorians in prison under this government. We will not let this government, or any other, turn away and pretend that this is not happening right now, and that they are not responsible.

“With 1,600 more permanent prison beds set to open over the next 12 months, but no new hospital beds, it’s not hard to see how law and order election promises from Labor and the Liberals hurt Victoria’s future.

“The Greens’ policy represents a line in the sand for Victoria, we must change course from imitating the failed policies of half a century ago, and start following contemporary justice strategies from nations with the lowest crime rates.”

/Public Release. View in full here.