Dr Richard Evans is the author of four books including Disasters that Changed Australia (MUP 2009) and The Pyjama Girl Mystery (Scribe 2004). A former journalist, his teaching and research interests include drugs and crime, disasters, surveillance, policing, and miscarriages of justice. He believes that criminology can and should help build a more just society.
On 30 June each year, Australia counts its prisoners. It's a big number. The most recent publicly available figure is for 2015: 36,134. That number is a record. Never before has Australia had so many people behind bars. The 2015 figure eclipsed the previous record, set the year before, of 33,789. That in turn broke the record set twelve months earlier, of just over 30,000.
Is it OK to make jokes about rape in prison? The trivialisation of sexual violence through what passes as humour is much less common than it once was. Jokes about rape are not innocent, are not harmless fun, are not unconnected to the horrible crime they make light of. Their gradual marginalisation represents social change of real importance.
Why parole is essential to community safety. The rape and murder of Jill Meagher in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick in September 2012 was as horrible a crime as could be imagined. Meagher, twenty-nine, was walking on a street near her home when she caught the attention of an opportunist sexual predator, Adrian Bayley, a man with a long history of violent sexual offences. She was dragged into an alley, brutally raped and then strangled…