Andrew’s government needs reform now

Data from Corrections Victoria shows that women are more likely than men to be imprisoned for illicit drug-related offenses and less likely to be imprisoned for assault than men. Perhaps most surprisingly, many receive relatively short prison sentences or go unconvicted — with women in pre-trial detention accounting for 43 percent.


Many women are victims of violence themselves and face significant physical and mental health problems.

Meanwhile, women are still the most common primary caregivers of their children. Convictions of caregivers in custody have been shown to adversely affect their children’s development and mental health. In other words, these tough approaches to crime-fighting perpetuate an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage.

A recent paper from RMIT’s Center for Innovative Justice examined the social and structural factors driving rising incarceration rates for women. It shows that measures such as the bail law changes have disproportionately hit women. Corrections Victoria revealed that in 2020, 25 per cent of convicted female prisoners were serving a sentence of less than a year. In line with previous years, women are more likely to be remanded in custody than men (34 percent in 2020).

For these women, time spent in pre-trial detention severed their connection to support, housing, employment services and their children, and perpetuated their disadvantage. Women are more vulnerable when isolated from their community and more likely to re-offend. Every night a woman spends behind bars for a crime for which she was not convicted or sentenced to less than time served is clearly a waste of taxpayers’ money.


To stop this cycle and make our communities safer, we must immediately focus on reducing women’s incarceration by: increasing release rates; Better support for those released on bail; and eliminating short sentences for minor offenses by redirecting women to community-based sentences in collaboration with civil society and social enterprises.

It’s hard to justify current government spending on correctional services when they do little to rehabilitate prisoners or prevent recidivism. Without urgent change, these economic and social costs will continue to rise.

Reversing this trend must be a priority for Daniel Andrews in his third term as Prime Minister. The first step to be taken is to increase bail rates for minor crimes, especially for women.

There is little risk to the community if incarceration rates for women are reduced. In fact, there is a significant benefit when you do this. The fact that many crimes are committed by women at a low level means this is the ideal place to start.

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Callan Tansill

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