David Biles' Columns

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology is saddened to hear of the passing of David Biles.

David Biles made a significant contribution to criminology in Australia. Among his many achievements, David was a well-known academic at the University of Melbourne before joining the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), where he was the Deputy Director for many years.

During this time at the AIC, David wrote extensively on a range of subjects, most notably on corrections. He was also seconded to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody as Head of Research, which clearly influences the work of the AIC, through the National Deaths in Custody Program, to this day.

David was the foundation secretary of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology and the president of the Society in the early 1980s. He was awarded the Society’s Distinguished Criminologist award in 2014.

David Biles’ columns in the Canberra Times

Dr David Biles was one of Australia’s most celebrated criminologists. He has been, for many years, a contributor to the Canberra Times on matters of criminology and criminal justice. With his permission and the kind permission of the Canberra Times, we include below a link to these contributions. We note that the views expressed by Dr Biles are not intended to bind ANZSOC to any particular position on the issues he raises. We thank him for making these columns available to a wider audience.

Note on David Biles
David Biles was an internationally recognised criminologist with degrees in psychology, education and sociology. His earlier positions have included: Deputy Director, Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra; Head of Research, Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; and Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne. He has also worked as an Education Officer in Victorian prisons for a period of 11 years. More recently he worked as Professorial Associate in corrections at Charles Sturt University.

He was the foundation Honorary Secretary of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology, and served as President from 1979 to 1983. In 2003 David was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) “for service to criminology, as an educator, researcher and adviser,” and in 2004 he was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of the University by Charles Sturt University. In 2014, David was a joint recipient of the ANZSOC Distinguished Criminologist Award.

David Biles’ Columns by Year
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011

Originally published in The Canberra Times 2017

More punishment won’t ‘fix’ the sorry state of juvenile justice in Australia
The escape of 15 offenders from the Malmsbury youth detention centre in Victoria last month is the most recent, and perhaps the most serious, failure in a long series of related problems in that state. (Originally published in the Canberra Times February 10, 2017)
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Originally published in The Canberra Times 2016

Canberra is not ready for a private prison – yet
Agree with him or not, but the determination of former chief minister Hon Stanhope to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Alexander Maconochie Centre is admirable. (Originally published in the Canberra Times December 28, 2016)
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Insitute of Criminology sacrificed on altar of bureaucracy
Since its foundation in 1973, the Australian Institute of Criminology has acquired a national and international reputation for its high-quality research and for its focus on policy-related issues. (Originally published in the Canberra Times November 21, 2016)
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Let’s not over-react to the escape of two prisoners from Canberra jail
The recent escape of Patrick McCurley and Jacob MacDonald from the Alexander Maconochie Centre, came as a shock as prison escapes do not seem to be as common these days as they were a decade or more ago. (Originally published in the Canberra Times September 13, 2016)
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Plenty of myths and half-truths about black deaths in custody
It is now 25 years since the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was tabled in the Federal Parliament, and this has prompted many people to comment on what is seen as the success or failure of the inquiry. (Originally published in the Canberra Times May 1, 2016)
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Community corrections changes could reduce prisoner number increase
I was pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago to receive a message from a senior academic at the Australian National University suggesting that he and some of his colleagues would like to have my views on the use of community service orders in the ACT. (Originally published in the Canberra Times March 9, 2016)
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Originally published in The Canberra Times 2015

Justice reinvestment a great idea that does not work
I genuinely hold Jon Stanhope in high regard, and it gives me no pleasure to find fault with one of his recent public statements. He said “It’s a sign of failure to continue to build cells or add cells, it’s a sign that a justice reinvestment philosophy hasn’t permeated and isn’t being delivered.” In my opinion justice reinvestment is just the most recently developed idea for making the criminal justice more effective by diverting some funds.. (Originally published in the Canberra Times December 28, 2015)
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It’s time for all police pursuits to be stopped, or at least seriously limited
It is not suggested that police pursuits “caused” the crashes and therefore the fatalities, but it seems reasonable to assume that they “contributed” to the tragic outcomes. (Originally published in the Canberra Times September 14, 2015)
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Banning smoking in Australian prisons has become a nationwide issue
Just over a year ago an opinion piece of mine was published in this journal under the title “Banning smoking in Australia’s jails is a tough call, but worth a try”. (Originally published in the Canberra Times August 30, 2015)
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A fifth judge in the ACT Supreme Court could reduce problems at the jail
The announcement of a fifth judge on the ACT Supreme Court has the potential to do much more than help out the court. (Originally published in the Canberra Times June 12, 2015)
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Sukumaran and Chan: There is still a chance they may not be executed
Indonesia is set to go ahead with the execution of two Australians for drug-smuggling. (Originally published in the Canberra Times February 26, 2015)
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Originally published in The Canberra Times 2014

Banning smoking in Australia’s jails is a tough call, but worth trying
We have recently learned that NSW plans to end smoking in all of its jails by this time next year to bring it into line with Queensland and the NT. (originally published in the Canberra Times, September 4, 2014)
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First-rate Alexander Maconochie Centre needs a little work
I was more than happy to accept an invitation to visit the Alexander Maconochie Centre this month. (originally published in the Canberra Times, July 11, 2014)
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Remand numbers in ACT prisons remain a problem
In December 2012, I argued the so-called blitz in the ACT Supreme Court had not been the success it was claimed. (originally published in the Canberra Times, June 20, 2014)
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Is Australia becoming more punitive?
In the December quarter 2013 the daily average number of full-time prisoners in Australia was 32,240 persons, the highest ever recorded (originally published in the Canberra Times, May 28, 2014)
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Jail upgrade an expensive but essential move
More beds is not the solution to coping with the increasing numbers of prisoners in overcrowded jails (originally published in the Canberra Times, May 12, 2014)
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Is Transfield Services’ $1.22 billion contract value for our money?
Hard questions need to be asked about the costs behind Transfield Services asylum seeker contract (originally published in the Canberra Times, March 10, 2014)
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Big changes needed to improve access to justice
There’s scope for the role of judges to be changed, and more so for lawyers to do more pro bono work (originally published in the Canberra Times, February 24, 2014)
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Plan for mandatory minimum sentencing puts justice, fairness at risk
Mandatory minimum sentences have no place in a modern and professional criminal justice system (originally published in the Canberra Times, January 2, 2014)
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Originally published in The Canberra Times in 2013

Parole boards product of a system under pressure
Parole boards must be given enough resources and well-trained staff to work efficiently and effectively (originally published in the Canberra Times, November 25, 2013)
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Why are so many behind bars?
Commentary on the quarterly statistical report on Australian corrective services released by the Bureau of Statistics in September 2013 (originally published in the Canberra Times, November 7, 2013)
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Why is ACT the poorer cousin of the NT?
A report on a visit to the Northern Territory Parliament House and the Supreme Court in Darwin, both of which make the equivalent Australian Capital Territory facilities look like poor relations (originally published in the Canberra Times, July 1, 2013)
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Justice means another judge
A fifth judge in the ACT Supreme Court is essential to reverse trend of ever-increasing remand numbers (originally published in the Canberra Times, June 3, 2013)
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Scales of justice off balance
The jail in the Australian Capital Territory is full, the Supreme Court undermanned, and government response lacklustre, to say the least (originally published in the Canberra Times, May 17, 2013)
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India’s prison system can teach us through its mistakes
Low imprisonment rates, overcrowding highlight the beginnings of a serious problem (originally published in the Canberra Times, May 2, 2013)
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No justice for forgotten thousands in custody
The Australian Capital Territory is the nation’s worst jurisdiction for remandees (originally published in the Canberra Times, April 8, 2013)
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Aborigines in custody solution needs a correctional facility
There are no quick-fix solutions to indigenous over-representation in our prisons (originally published in the Canberra Times, February 28, 2013)
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No escaping problems at jail
Despite unjustified criticism, there are problems at Canberra’s jail that require independent investigation (originally published in the Canberra Times, February 8, 2013)
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Originally published in The Canberra Times in 2012

Wait for justice in ACT is criminal
A blitz on the court system this year (2012) was not the success it was made out to be (originally published in the Canberra Times, December 12, 2012)
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Cruise ship reading provides reflections on Australia’s past
With time to spare on board ship, David Biles takes to the books and discovers a literary conundrum (originally published in the Canberra Times, October 29, 2012)
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No drugs in prison a big ask
A harsh regime to prevent contraband from entering would be worse than the existing problem (originally published in the Canberra Times, September 3, 2012)
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Truth is, lie detectors have no place in any civilised society
Police trialling the technology in Britain sounds a warning for the justice system here (originally published in the Canberra Times, August 15, 2012)
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Days of expert shopping over
The paramount duty of a witness is to the court (originally published in the Canberra Times, June 11, 2012)
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Tougher bail rules put more in jail
Remand in custody is not intended as a punishment (originally published in the Canberra Times, May 25, 2012)
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No excuse for complacency
While problems with jail systems in Australia pale by comparison, the US reminds us of the mistakes to avoid (originally published in the Canberra Times, May 7, 2012)
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Social control works wonders
The subtle conditioning you are subject to in an enclosed community – say, a cruise ship – ensures good order (originally published in the Canberra Times, April 20, 2012)
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Spin belies ACT crime rate
Canberra is not a safe and crime-free city, despite the rosy picture painted by some local politicians (originally published in the Canberra Times, April 7, 2012)
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When marines are over here
In nearly every case where troops are deployed in foreign countries in peacetime, a Status of Forces Agreement is negotiated between the two governments which, among other things, specifies how misbehaviour by the troops will be dealt with. This can be a very controversial and politically sensitive subject (originally published in the Canberra Times, March 12, 2012)
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Benefits of Bangkok Rules
Women have a tough time in prison but some improvement may come from a Thai organisation’s initiative (originally published in the Canberra Times, February 12, 2012)
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The advantages of private prisons in Australia
Should we be proud or ashamed of the fact that Australia has a higher proportion of its prisoners in private prisons than any other country in the world (originally published in the Canberra Times, January 22, 2012)?
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A model prison system
The ACT’s correctional regime should be a benchmark for other Australian jurisdictions (originally published in the Canberra Times, January 8, 2012)
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Originally published in The Canberra Times in 2011

Caution on way ahead for sex offender registration
The West Australian proposal for registering sex offenders is a simplistic solution to a complex problem. Making personal details public is not the way to go (originally published in the Canberra Times, December 27, 2011)
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Are private prisons a cause for pride or shame?
It is not widely known but there was a possibility that Canberra could have had a private prison rather than one which is managed by the government (originally published in the Canberra Times, December 18, 2011)
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Tough fight remains to halt barbaric death penalty
The last time the death penalty was used in Australia was when Ronald Ryan was hanged in Pentridge prison in Victoria on February 3, 1967, for the murder of a prison officer during a daring escape with a fellow prisoner (originally published in the Canberra Times, November 30, 2011)
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Good news week for jail system
Setting in place a truly independent inspection process would reassure the public their money has been well spent (originally published in the Canberra Times, November 13, 2011)
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Why international prison transfers make sense
Being jailed far from home can have a psychological impact (originally published in the Canberra Times, November 6, 2011)
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Their vehicle is most dangerous weapon available to police
A comment on police car chases (originally published in the Canberra Times, October 25, 2011)
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Curse of unfair prison terms
Are some of the people in jail in Australia the subject of a wrongful conviction (originally published in the Canberra Times, September 30, 2011)?
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Sex offender registration system needs to change
Confusing paedophiles with under-age sex offenders is wrong (originally published in the Canberra Times, September 12, 2011)
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Two different states of justice
On the administration of justice in New South Wales and Victoria (originally published in the Canberra Times, August 28, 2011)
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Jail means offenders are out of harm’s way
Something has to be done to reduce the risk of ex-prisoners dying once they are released (originally published in the Canberra Times, August 4, 2011)
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