WEEKEND detention will be scrapped in NSW and replaced with a system of community-based treatment and monitoring orders in an overhaul designed to bring down recidivism rates.Magistrates and judges sentencing people convicted of crimes that attract less than two years’ jail will have the option of making an intensive correctional order, forcing them to undergo rehabilitation and education and complete a minimum of 32 hours a month of community service.A court would also be able to impose conditions such as a ban on drinking, curfews, travel restrictions, random breath tests and electronic monitoring with ankle bracelets.Offenders whose criminal behaviour is a result of gambling or alcohol addiction face having to wear monitoring devices for up to two years to ensure they avoid casinos or hotels.The orders would apply to motoring offences, speeding, drug offences and some assaults. Offenders have to be assessed as suitable for the program.If the orders are breached, the NSW Parole Authority will have the power to order the balance of the sentence be served in jail.The government expects about 750 people a year to be subject to the orders. The Premier, Kristina Keneally, said it was a tough approach.Since a review of periodic detention by the NSW Sentencing Council two years ago, the number of people sentenced to weekend detention has fallen.In 2007, nearly 1300 people served periodic detention, mostly for less than a year.Ms Keneally and the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said the measure aimed to reduce re-offending by 10 per cent by 2016.Chris Cunneen, Professor of Criminology at James Cook University, said intensive correction orders were ”a good thing” if they were properly resourced, otherwise magistrates would be reluctant to use them.The government denies the move was a cost-cutting measure, arguing it would cost $14.5 million a year, compared with $11 million for periodic detention.The former chairman of the sentencing council, James Wood, QC, said yesterday he fully supported the move away from periodic detention, which was a flawed system.”At the very best, or very worst, periodic detention is a minor inconvenience,” he said.”What it does do is expose people to undesirable associations with other prisoners, other offenders, which can be taken advantage of back in the community. It also exposes them to new forms of criminality and new tricks. I just think it’s an inappropriate way of dealing with offenders, because it doesn’t address the factors that are causing them to offend. This is the key to this whole program: intensive treatment, retraining. Ways of addressing the factors that cause people to offend.”The deputy chief magistrate, Paul Cloran, also welcomed the proposal, which unlike periodic detention would be available outside Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. He said he hoped it would be further extended to the far west of NSW.But Denise Weelands, a lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, said she had concerns that strict conditions set many vulnerable people up to fail.
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