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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Truce on hardline sentencing

THE NSW Opposition has pledged to end the "law and order auction" in a dramatic break with the tradition of promising to increase punishments and fill jails that has characterised every state election campaign since 1988.

The Coalition's justice spokesman, Greg Smith, who entered Parliament in 2007 with a reputation as a tough criminal prosecutor, said hardline sentencing and prisons policies - including those of his own party - have failed.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Smith told the Herald he would invest more money and resources in rehabilitation to break the cycle in which almost half of all NSW criminals re-offend after their release.

"I know that for a series of elections there was one side bidding against the other in what they called a law and order auction," Mr Smith said.

"While I think there are some areas where the law could be even tougher, such as showing more concern for the families of victims of homicide, in terms of the harm done to them, there are other areas where I am concerned that prisoners are not properly being rehabilitated, not given a chance to go straight in a community that really would want them to go straight."

Mr Smith likened his move to "Nixon in China". Just as it took an anti-communist US president, Richard Nixon, to open relations with communist China in 1972, it might take a politician with Mr Smith's conservative credentials to push for a bipartisan position on criminal justice. [Mark Godsey]

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