In the most profound statement by a Corrective Services minister in this nation, Western Australia’s Fran Logan said there’d be no new jail for the state. He stated that a review of remand prisoners was needed to free those who pose no risk. Logan’s Government should support him because this is an authentic way forward. Western Australia has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates with nearly half its prison population comprising Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders. The state jails Aboriginal peoples at the nation’s highest rate and from that racialised lens jails them just behind America’s jailing rate of African-Americans.

Unless Logan is supported in his refreshing stance to not build another prison, rest assured that by 2025 nearly three in four of the state’s prison population will comprise Aboriginal peoples. Already one in 6 of the state’s Aboriginal population has spent time in jail while one in 13 of the state’s Aboriginal adult males is in prison today. Minister Logan said “there is no way in the world” that the new Government would spend $600 million for another prison. Minister Logan has called for a review of the nearly 2,000 remand prisoners from an overall prison population of nearly 6,700.

The Federal Government is being pressed to implement a ‘Justice’ target – in other words a target to ‘close the gap’ between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal incarceration rates. Like the Closing the Gap targets that are never met, just like the failed Millennium Goals, targets are just that, targets. Targets alone can make no difference. All ‘targets’ is ’embarrass’ a the government of the day ‘once’ a year. Furthermore, the failure to meet targets is interpreted by some that some people cannot be helped – more ‘stigma’.

Not building prisons is a sure-fire way for the criminal justice system to not have a comfort zone with sentencing. This fact would pressure the State Government to review its mandatory sentencing laws, and punitive laws out-of-sync with the majority of the rest of the nation.

Minister Logan is to be commended and hopefully he will hold firm in the face of any media frenzy to cruelly sensationalise negatively what he is arguing. Hopefully his colleagues don’t cave in to public pressure and the bullshit of polls. The next step by Minister Logan will surely be to invest in the transforming of the lives of the inmates – from the point of entry, so that when they are released that there is hope on the horizon. In the first year post-release compared to life inside one is ten times more like to suicide or die unnaturally. Upon release, nearly two-thirds finish up homeless. Within two years more than half will re-offend. In general, people come out of prison in a state worse than when they went in. The situational trauma of incarceration is one of a constancy of traumas and sadly for many degenerates to aggressive complex trauma, often irrecoverable.

Let us not call for targets alone and actually do the tangible and not build any new prisons. We need to support people psychosocially, educationally and to so much more, into an improved well-being and into gainful employment.

  • In the meantime, the Western Australian Government can hurry up and implement a ‘Custody Notification Service’
  • Outlaw the jailing of ‘fine-defaulters’
  • Put an end to various mandatory sentencing laws
  • Put an end to the jailing of the homeless for ‘vagrancy’
  • Go all the way in investing in secondary and tertiary education opportunities for inmates while inside – 90 per cent of the state’s prison population did not complete Year 12, while 60 per cent did not complete Year 10