Radical reform needed for ‘sinking Titanic’ Queensland prison system
And Ms Kilroy thinks decriminalising minor and non-violent offences will help curb the flow of poor and disadvantaged Queenslanders into the system.
Some of the offences she would like to see decriminalised included public urination and drunkenness, drug possession and begging.
“To live on Newstart, on $260 a week, is near impossible. Of course you are going to collide with police and end up criminalised and in prison,” she said.
Ms Kilroy, who was once incarcerated herself for drug trafficking, said women who commit crimes as a result of poverty or substance abuse should be housed and helped, rather than arrested.
“It would be cheaper to pay a woman’s rent for a year, for just over $18,000 than put her in prison for $107,000,” she said.
Her decriminalisation push comes after Australia’s former top cop, Mick Palmer, threw his support behind the argument for decriminalising illicit drugs for personal use.
Mr Palmer, who was the commissioner of the Australian Federal Police from 1994 to 2001, wrote to the commission that the current prohibitionist approach to drugs was “badly broken”.
“Removing criminal penalties for drug use and possession of small quantities would enable police to focus on drug traffickers while drug abuse is treated more effectively as a health and social issue,” he said.
“”The jury is no longer out on the failure of Australia’s current illicit drugs policy. It does not work and everyone knows it.”
Ms Kilroy was concerned real change would never happen because governments wanted to look tough on crime.
“The government has got to be courageous and do something different now to steer the ship, or the sinking titanic, and move in a different direction,” she said.
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
The commission will hold further public hearings in Townsville on May 8 and Brisbane on May 10.
Lydia Lynch is a reporter for the Brisbane Times