Three years ago, we responded to the growing numbers of women in prison, especially women being held on remand, pre-sentence by developing Victoria’s first dedicated criminal defence practice for women. We get women out on bail. We get them linked to services and that means we get them better outcomes at the point of sentence. This is what is needed, not tougher bail laws that hurt the people who need more support, not more prison. In this election year we fear that we will see an acceleration of law and order talk and fear of granting bail that was again ignited last year by the Bourke Street incident.
In this article for Overland, Clara Gledhill argues:
In the wake of the shocking and tragic events in Bourke Street, Melbourne in January, Daniel Andrews’ state government is under pressure to review and reform the bail system after the news that the man allegedly responsible, Dimitrious Gargasoulas, had been granted bail a few days before. Andrews has announced the introduction of ‘Night Courts’ for violent offences, as well as a review of the bail system in Victoria, engineered to tighten up bail eligibility.
But the knee-jerk response of bail reform will not deal with the structural and systemic problems that give rise to incidents of violence, particularly since the bail system already works in ways that pre-emptively remand people by virtue of the risk they pose. As with the parole reforms that came about after Adrian Bayley’s offending, reform developed in response to individual and exceptional events will only increase the number of significantly disadvantaged people on remand. Increased rates of imprisonment will create social, economic and human costs for the community, not make it safer. These punitive law changes highlight the inadequacies of the systems we have in place to respond to family violence and support people with acute mental health needs.