BY ZANNY BEGG
SYDNEY — During the last six years the number of prisoners in NSW has risen by 21.3%. On September 2 NSW Premier Bob Carr announced a $162.5 million spending program on new jails which could lead to a further 16% increase in the prison population by the year 2005. More than 1800 new places, at 12 new or upgraded prisons, will be created over the next four years.
The package includes reopening Cooma Jail by the end of the year and pushing forward with plans for the controversial new women's prison in western Sydney by the end of 2003. The government will also be allocating an extra $2 million for the construction of a new jail in the central west by 2005 and by 2004 they plan to construct a 350-bed prison complex at Kempsey. Both these jails will be built near local Aboriginal communities.
Bob Carr explained the motivation for these proposals by saying, "with a tough response to crime comes the need to make more prison spaces available".
However, the NSW crime rate has remained relatively stable over the last six years — the prison expansion may have more to do with the ALP's hopes for the next state election.
Annie Stringer, the coordinator of the prison and debt project, explained: "While Carr may claim he is getting tough on crime the policies of his government actually encourage criminal behaviour through increasing the financial instability of those already marginalised within our society, who then get caught in a cycle of debt and crime."