Our criminal justice system is in crisis; our prisons are full-up, our courts are backed-up and our police are fed-up.

That’s what happens when governments get ‘Tough on Crime’; more arrests, more convictions, longer sentences until the system runs out of room, time and capacity. Then the people trying to make that system work cry out for more resources: more staff, more money and a lot more prison cells. And (as always) we all miss the point:


Prisons make good people bad, bad people worse and crazy people violent.
Prisons turn first time offenders into career criminals.

Prisons don’t quarantine inmates from criminal activity (every illegal substance is readily available in any maximum security prison) they don’t change behaviours (at least half the prison population will reoffend) and they introduce offenders into criminal networks while compounding the isolation between the individual offender and their society, which is probably where a lot of the real problem lies.

Governments who get ‘Get Tough’ increase the number of people going into a toxic system that makes nothing better and everything a whole lot worse, both for the individual and their society.

And here’s the weird thing: crime is not on the increase, it’s barely keeping pace with population growth and in many areas it’s been dropping for years, unlike the media coverage of crime which has exploded and along with it, the fear of crime, which is our deeper problem.

Because more fear means more governments promising to Get Tough when we should be Getting Smart.

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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.