Longer prison terms don’t help
Austria’s coalition government is only pretending to protect women, said Michael Völker. The ruling center-right Austrian People’s Party and its junior partner, the far-right Freedom Party, have just announced a raft of tougher sentences for violent crimes, particularly those with female victims. Rape, for example, will now carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years, up from one. “Whoever goes after women and children in Austria,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, “has earned a tough punishment.” That sounds fair and reasonable—“but it isn’t.” Numerous experts, including many of those the government consulted for its review of sentencing laws, say that increasing the penalties for crimes such as rape, assault, and murder “does little or nothing” to reduce the rates of those crimes. Perpetrators of such acts don’t worry about the consequences, and so adding years to their sentences won’t deter them. It would be far more useful to invest in victims’ rights programs and rape-prevention measures. But that would involve real effort and community engagement. It’s far easier to exploit the recent spate of rapes and murders committed by foreigners that have gained so much media attention. The government is stoking society’s “lust for vengeance” to give us a symbolic policy that won’t stop crime and won’t help victims.