How many jails should we build?
As many as currently needed plus 20%.
The govt is building more and expanding others as we speak. Bed pressures are full on in prisons at the moment.
Or alternatively we could aim for rehabilitation rather than revenge and end up like the Dutch, who are having to close prisons hand over fist because there just isn't enough people to fill them. In fact they are now housing prisoners from other countries so they at least have the numbers to keep a few facilities open.
Mind you, the chances of a national mentality that allows off shore gulags would never go for something as intelligent as that.
In someway, I think it's a bit beyond our control unfortunately. Prisons provide so many rehabilitation resources, activities and opportunities to learn. Some prisons in Victoria are basically farms, they don't even have a fence. The problem is the situation these people come from on the outside. The parents were/are drug addicts, they have no family, and the only people they know are other ex-convicts. It doesn't matter what the government does, the only way they can make a true difference is by not insitutionalising those who are just your typical drug addicts, who don't physically harm others nor traffick serious quantities. Some people commit crimes to intentionally return to prison, because it's better than the life they have outside. I think this actually demonstrates that prisons are not the "tough" environments that everybody thinks they are.
I suppose here one could make an argument for services outside, which do also exist, however some of these people have been raised this way and know no different. You can plant the idea of a lifestyle change, but they are the ones who have to act upon it. I think the prison population is going nuts due to usual population rises, and then of course Ice...
We put too many people in jail, and a percentage of them become hardened crims, because as you said they form relationships with others, have no jobs prospects or hope and the cycle continues.
On one end of the scale, I am in favour of eliminating creeps like this guy who has just murdered 5 and hurt many. Add in the murderers, rapists and paedofiles and we eliminate the worst, who do not deserve to be part of our society.
At the other end, jailing people for road offences, non-payment of fines, drug using and white collar crime is just nonsense. I worked with a guy who embezzled $600,000 from our employer and another guy who murdered his Wife. One got 7 years jail that other got 4 years; yep the murderer was out first.