Magazine article Corrections Today

Battling "Precrime": Procedural Justice for Post-Sentence Detention Sex Offenders in Australia

Magazine article Corrections Today

Battling "Precrime": Procedural Justice for Post-Sentence Detention Sex Offenders in Australia

Article excerpt

Philip K. Dick's 1956 science-fiction short story, "The Minority Report," is a fictionalized account of a police agency, named "Precrime," that is tasked with identifying and eliminating people who will commit crimes in the future. These predictions of future crimes are based on verbalized visions of the future by mutant "precogs," named for their "precognition" of forthcoming events. (1)

A preemptive approach

The current stance of justice and policing agencies has shifted to adopt this preemptive--rather than reactive--approach. State and federal governments have fallen in line with this method of law enforcement and strive to predict the needs of the consumer, meeting them accordingly. For the majority of the last century, the responsive nature of the criminal justice system sated the general public. A crime occurred; an offender was identified, tried and duly punished; and the matter was closed. The role of the criminal justice system was a static response to the commission of a crime. However, the advent of consumerism has us demanding more from organizations previously unchallenged in their authority--universities, transportation systems, and police and correctional services. The need to mete out blame and responsibility, coupled with a societal expectation of being buffered with "zero crime," has created anxiousness on the part of justice agencies to achieve impossible expectations. The ability of the modern man in Australia to make and enact choices in the design of his entire life is often crudely disrupted by the continued existence of crime.

Sexual offenses, in particular, confound the majority of the populace. Different from other kinds of violent and financially motivated crime, sexual offenses cause an element of disgust and the desire to "other" the perpetrator so as to create a distance between them and the rest of the population. Sexual offenses often have associations with mental disturbance, fetishism, the harm of women and children, and a general air of the grotesque. However, as with many things that repel us, we are also fascinated by them at the same time--the flames of which are fanned by the media. The media deploys still and moving images of victims and their families before and after the commission of a crime, and this powerful visibility enables us to empathize and connect with them, thus sharing their emotions: grief, anger and vulnerability. Fleetingly captured footage of offenders in the back of police cars or being led from court in handcuffs cause similar emotions. The proliferation of the media at the end of the last century--and the ability of viewers to be exposed to details of constantly occurring crimes --has created an environment of constant threat and uncertainty. Adrian Bayley, who was convicted of raping and murdering Jill Meagher in 2012, appealed his sentence on the basis that the media exposure of his image during his trial had created bias against him. (2) The murder of Masa Vukotic by a convicted rapist in 2015, which garnered significant media attention, prompted the following statement from an investigating detective: "I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn't be alone in parks." (3) This is not a reflection on the capability of the policing agency itself, or a victim-blaming exercise, but rather a threat assessment of the environment we inhabit from a policing perspective.

Stuck in transition

It is under this veil of community insecurity that post-sentence detention of serious sexual offenders in Victoria was borne. Corella Place Transitional Facility was opened with a limited capacity in 2006, initially to house a few select offenders who remain under indefinite detention orders; now, it oversees up to 100 offenders on supervision orders who are expected to transition back into the community. (4) The name itself is meant to stymie any confusion between a prison and a transitional facility; however, the term "transitional facility" is open to interpretation given that many of the offenders there may never be transitioned out and will remain under detention indefinitely. …

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