[Extract from introduction] Queensland has 18 per cent of Australia’s population, 26 per cent of Australia’s prisoners and 35 per cent of Australia’s community corrections clients (Graycar 2000). The average period served in the State’s prisons by inmates released during 1997-98 was 4.2 months for males and 2.1 months for females; where over one-quarter of all people admitted to prison were imprisoned for fine default only (CJS Monitor 1999, 4, February). These statistics demonstrate that Queensland is over-represented in its use of correctional options; (1) that previous prison reforms — which attempted to keep those who defaulted on fines or those sentenced to short-term periods out of custodial settings — have failed; and that, given the comparative picture over time, there has been a worsening of many identified corrections problems.(2) While crime rates have remained steady in Queensland in recent years, successive governments have legislated to ensure more punitive sentencing, adding to a range of other factors that have contributed to Queensland’s high imprisonment rate (Watts 2000). At the same time there has been a devolution in the reach of government and continued calls for greater state efficiencies in view of the high costs of corrections. Indeed, ‘the corrective services system has had to bear the brunt of the community’s demand for law and order while coping with a government focus on efficiency and competitive business management techniques’ (Peach 1999, 2). With the introduction and now widespread expansion of the private sector in prison construction and management, both in Australia and internationally, attention has now turned to the potential for increased private sector involvement in the delivery of community corrections. The impetus for the present research comes from the observation that as long ago as 1973, attention was drawn to the consequences of failing to provide probation staff, funds and resources, resulting in ‘the needless jailing of offenders’ and the development and worsening in severity of criminal careers (National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals 1973, 335). The potential privatisation of community corrections has been characterised as being ‘an antidote to complacency and the painful realisation that the prison population may never come down but may continue to escalate in a relentless manner, and that existing “alternatives to custody” have failed to check either the crime rate or the prison population’ (Vass and Menzies 1989, 255).
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