Labor will reform fine recovery to reduce incarceration - Media Release

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR ISAACS


THE HON SHAYNE NEUMANN MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGEING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NORTHERN AUSTRALIA
MEMBER FOR BLAIR


THE HON DR ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION
MEMBER FOR FRASER
LABOR CANDIDATE FOR FENNER

 

LABOR WILL REFORM FINE RECOVERY TO REDUCE INCARCERATION

Labor will crack down on unpaid fines and reduce unnecessary incarceration by reforming the fine recovery process.

Australian States and Territories spend up to $770 per day, per offender locking up people for unpaid fines.

High and growing incarceration rates put unnecessary strains on government budgets and the community.

Many people incarcerated for fine defaults are from disadvantaged or Indigenous backgrounds. Housing stress, unemployment or intermittent employment and health concerns are among the challenges that result in fine defaults.

Badly designed fine recovery mechanisms cost the community in lost fine revenue and higher prison expenses. Because many prisoners re-offend, locking up fine defaulters can lead to higher crime rates down the track.

The reforms Labor has announced will:

  • Make sure fine defaulters pay up.
  • Save taxpayers money.
  • Reduce the jail population.

Labor will make sure those with outstanding fines pay the money by allowing the States and Territories to use the tax and social security system to recover unpaid fines through a Fine Enforcement Collection Scheme.

If elected, Labor will consult on the best way of pursuing this policy on a cost recovery basis.

Using the tax system to collect debts is well-established. In the case of unpaid child support, the Federal Government uses the tax system to recover unpaid debts.

These reforms would restore the credibility of fines as a criminal penalty, ensuring offenders work to “pay off their debt to society” and free police, prison and community corrections resources to their primary activity.

Australia now jails 196 in every 100,000 adults – the highest imprisonment rate in over a century. A significant number of Australian prisoners are behind bars because of unpaid fines. High and growing incarceration rates don’t just put strain on government budgets, but on our community too.

In Western Australia for example, the number of people in prison for unpaid fines has soared 600 per cent over the last five years. Each year, Western Australia jails at least 1,100 fine defaulters. Approximately half are Aboriginal people. Two years ago, the death in custody of Ms Dhu, a 22-year old incarcerated for a $1,000 unpaid fine, brought the issue to national attention.

Being smart on crime isn’t being soft on crime. The current system makes taxpayers pay to lock up fine defaulters. Under the Fine Enforcement Collection Scheme, fine defaulters will pay their fines.

THURSDAY, 16 JUNE 2016


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