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01 August 2002

Balance needed in sentencing debate


Public relations companies are often accused of influencing public opinion by putting forward one side of an argument in a way that doesn't allow the voice of the ‘little people' to be heard. But sometimes issues grow legs and walk all on their very own. That's when the ‘other side' needs good PR.

A perfect example was the election debate on tougher sentencing. It was so one-sided that anyone who dared put their hand up to suggest an alternative point of view, ran the risk of annihilation!

Yet this is a complex issue that needs sane and rational debate. All society has a vested interest in the outcome, but there is no-one to advocate for the rational middle ground and provide much needed balance.

It's a hugely emotive issue, particularly if someone close has been a victim of violent crime. The natural instinct is to have the perpetrator locked up forever. But in most cases, forever won't happen.

One day, these people will be back in the community, and statistics tell us the longer a person is locked up, the less likely they are to change.

When you look at it like that, the call for ‘sensible sentencing' starts to sound a bit like an oxymoron. Restorative rather than punitive justice seems to have a slightly more logical ring to it, but who is going to promote such an argument in the current environment?

Perhaps when the tax bills start coming in for our new, bigger prisons, the debate will get more balance.

What do you think?
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