A new report has revealed more offenders are supervised in the community which has resulted in a reduced number of prison sentences.
2018 sentencing reforms increased supervised community sentences and reduced both short-term prison sentences and unsupervised community sentences according to a report released on August 27 by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).
In September 2018 the NSW Government introduced reforms that made community sentencing options more flexible in order to maximise opportunities for offenders to be supervised and to engage in rehabilitative and therapeutic programs.
Two aims of the reforms were to:
- Increase the proportion of offenders sentenced to supervised community-based orders
- Reduce the proportion of offenders serving short prison sentences
The BOCSAR report found the reforms achieved both these objectives. The proportion of adult offenders in the Local Court who received a supervised community order increased significantly from 14.6 per cent to 22 per cent after the sentencing reforms commenced. The percentage of offenders who received a short-term prison sentence of 12 months or less significantly declined from 5.2 per cent to 4.4 per cent.
Similar results were found for domestic violence offenders and Aboriginal offenders in the Local Court and adult offenders in the District and Supreme Courts.
A second study undertaken by BOCSAR in partnership with the Judicial Commission of NSW assessed judicial confidence in the new sentencing reforms through a survey of 93 magistrates and judges.
Judicial officers generally agree that the reforms are operating as intended. 71 per cent believed offenders had more opportunity to serve a supervised community-based order, 57 per cent agreed that new community-based options provided more flexibility in sentencing decisions and 47 per cent agreed that offenders had more opportunity to participate in rehabilitation programs.
However, a number of concerns were raised by judicial officers. Some were concerned about the Corrective Services practice of suspending supervision for low risk offenders regardless of the sentencing conditions stipulated by the judicial officer. Another concern was the lack of transparency regarding breaches of Intensive Corrections Orders (a community based alternative to full-time custody) which are overseen by the State Parole Authority.
READ MORE: 'Climate change is real and it's happening'
BOCSAR executive director Jackie Fitzgerald said it was clear the sentencing reforms had the desired impact of increasing the opportunities for offenders to receive the potentially therapeutic benefits of supervision.
"The ultimate goal of the reform, however, is to reduce reoffending. We won't have an answer as to whether the reforms have achieved this aim until 2021," she said.