I rise today to speak on the Right on Crime project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. In its own words, the project is a 'national campaign to promote successful, conservative solutions on American criminal justice policy—reforming the system to ensure public safety, shrink government, and save taxpayers money'.
Just to give you some background, I have spoken previously in this place about the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the good work it does advancing and advocating conservative policy in both Texas and the wider United States. In regard to this specific project, the Institute of Public Affairs, based in Melbourne, has taken a particular interest in it, going to the effort of funding a tour for the foundation's Vice President of National Initiatives, the Hon. Charles S. DeVore (better known as Chuck).
I have met the Hon. Mr DeVore on previous occasions and we struck up a friendship based on our common interests and like-mindedness. It was a pleasure to host him in Adelaide on 15 November, and I am pleased that he was able to meet with honourable members of both places, as well as the honourable Minister for Correctional Services. The underlying message of the tour, and the project more generally, was that correctional services can and should be delivered at minimal cost while sufficiently providing the balanced outcomes of punishment and rehabilitation.
Notwithstanding the jurisdictional and cultural differences between Texas and South Australia, it was astounding to discover that the cost of incarceration as a figure per prisoner in Texas, when adjusted for exchange rates, is actually a quarter of what it is in South Australia. Given that the cost of incarceration has been estimated to be as high as $95,000 per prisoner per annum in South Australia, these reforms cannot be ignored.
Given this high cost, it is easy to see why the government is hamstrung when it comes to prisoner capacity. This inflating cost would prevent any further investment in correctional services in regard to increasing capacity. If the budgetary allowance is consistently being exceeded, then there remains none to be invested in new prisons and the like. Indeed, it becomes obvious why the government has expanded home detention programs, often in inappropriate circumstances.
As the minister may be aware, the state of Texas has managed to keep costs low whilst lowering incarceration rates to the point of it being able to close two penitentiaries. This is an inconceivable feat and it should make the government stand up and take note. Amazingly, this was achieved in a state which is known to be uncompromisingly tough on crime.
The target area of the reform is recidivism. A substantial reduction in recidivism prevents institutionalisation, thereby encouraging an attenuation in prison populations. The goal is that offenders serve their time and sufficiently rehabilitate themselves to re-enter society to become net contributing members of society, both economically and socially. The case for reform is built on eight pillars: public safety, realigning the size of government, fiscal discipline, victim support, personal responsibility, government accountability, preservation of the family unit and free enterprise.
Government should exist to secure liberties, which can only be enjoyed when public safety is guaranteed. However, the growth in the size of government and its jurisdiction has unreasonably encroached, not only on the liberties of the innocent, but also of the guilty. With the increase in the number of offences enforced by the state comes an increase in offenders and of cost: cost of both enforcement and justice delivery. With this in mind, government should be actively limiting the criminal law to just that which causes a victim or is blameworthy.
The monetary saving that occurs as a result of such reform can then be directed to programs which encourage rehabilitation and support reintegration into society. Such reform could go a long way to preventing the destruction of the family unit in lower socio-economic areas, which incarceration causes. Encouraging personal responsibility is something which can restore pride to both victims and the offender. By shifting the onus of victim restitution from the state to the offender, victims are more likely to be satisfied by playing an active role in the justice process, whilst the offender realises that crime has a real-world effect, fostering rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, I cannot expand further on the program, given that time limits me today. However, suffice to say that it has had a significant effect in the United States, with a presence in 33 out of the 50 states. I implore the minister to consider the program in detail, and I hope his meeting was fruitful. Without pre-empting the will of the council, I hope that the matters I touched on here will be explored as part of a future select committee into the prison system in this state. I encourage all members to look into the merits of this project and approach it with an open mind.
Some time ago, I was fortunate enough to visit a correctional facility in Texas, United States. I have to say that I was absolutely impressed by the hard work and dedication of the staff and the absolute commitment to genuine rehabilitation, to genuine education and the effort put into skilling the prisoners for after prison, real world, real life, constructive activity. I would implore the minister—I know he is extremely busy—to visit Texas and the correctional facilities in Texas and see the difference that determination can make with regard to the lives of prisoners and how they can learn meaningful trades, with meaningful education and meaningful jobs.
I thank the Hon. Chuck DeVore for taking the time to visit Adelaide in his very busy trip to Australia. We were lucky to have him and I hope that his message is heard loud and clear, in particular in South Australia, but throughout the rest of Australia.