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Good behaviour deserves a second chance

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In criminal justice reform, many tend to view issues entirely through prisms of either toughness or softness, as if so reductive a perspective could ever reflect a complex reality. The truth is genuine efforts to reduce crime against historical trends, and not just the previous year’s rate, will emphasise different objectives at different times.

We should embrace a scheme that rewards eligible offenders with a chance to restore their name.Credit:File/iStock

Some will be rehabilitative while others will be punitive.

The need for Victoria to join all other Australian jurisdictions in embracing a spent convictions scheme is a good illustration of the former. Giving eligible low-level offenders a second chance to clear their past offending history to rebuild their lives would be an example of strong incentives complementing strong deterrents.

There are times, especially in the face of serious offending, when the sentencing objectives of punishment, deterrence and denunciation are necessary to reflect the turpitude of such wrongdoing and the community’s justifiable abhorrence. Consider rape, murder and child sexual abuse among other crimes.

In these instances, it is entirely appropriate that an offender’s criminal history will bear for all time the details of their culpability.

But there are other times, for low level or minor crimes, when incentives to encourage good behaviour by offenders have the redemptive power to reduce rates of re-offending and secure the best........

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