Queenlsand Labor enacts 'truth in sentencing'

November 29, 2000


BRISBANE — The Queensland Labor government has rushed laws through parliament to retrospectively abolish remissions ("time off for good behaviour") for prisoners in response to recent Supreme Court cases in which prisoners successfully challenged the failure of the Department of Corrective Services to release them.

"These are the bastards who've offended against society", said prisons minister Tom Barton in the Courier Mail on November 14. During the parliamentary debate, Barton called the Supreme Court judges' decisions "stupid" and accusing them of having "nothing better to do with their time" than find "loopholes" in prison laws.

"The do-gooders have been winning too many of the debates lately", Barton said, "[and] frequently using public funds to initiate cases and causing the Corrective Services Department to waste public funds in the defence of their decisions. Enough public funds have been wasted in the interests of people who are locked up, should be locked up, should remain locked up."

One of the cases was that of Lorna McKenzie, a woman convicted of killing her husband after 40 years of domestic violence. Originally sentenced to eight years' imprisonment, McKenzie appealed and her sentence was reduced to five years with a recommendation that she be released on parole after 12 months. The parole board refused to release her due to a series of faulty bureaucratic procedures. A further appeal was mounted and the Supreme Court ordered her immediate release.

The new prison laws, which abolish parole for prisoners serving less than two years and remissions for all prisoners, was supported by both the ALP government and National Party-dominated coalition opposition. The laws were on November 16.

The Criminal Justice Alliance, which includes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation for Legal Services, the Prisoners' Legal Service and Sisters Inside, campaigned against the laws.

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