What do we want from our justice system? To some people this is a pretty straightforward question. Our courts and prisons should be there, first and foremost, to mete out strong punishment to offenders, providing justice for individuals and communities affected by their egregious, criminal behaviour. For those who espouse this “hard” justice approach, lengthy jail sentences are typically the answer — and those long custodial sentences deter further crime.
Although this answer is seemingly simple, its fundamental problem is that our penal policy is clearly not working. Between 1993 and 2008 our prison population nearly doubled, rising from 45,000 to 83,000 — about the level now.