Alternatives to imprisonment
Submissions to the inquiry argued that traditional punitive responses to law and
order are not working.
Despite the enormous cost of imprisonment both economically and socially,
evidence suggests that incarceration does not have a positive impact on crime
This is particularly the case for Indigenous Australians, as demonstrated by
the fact that in 2014, 77% of Indigenous Australians in custody were recidivist.
There is a need, therefore, to consider more effective solutions to addressing Indigenous
imprisonment rates. In this chapter, the committee discusses the merits of prevention,
early intervention, diversionary programs and justice reinvestment.
Recognising that socioeconomic factors play a critical role in whether a
person commits a crime, prevention is about working with communities to address
the underlying factors which cause crime. This involves engaging those who are
showing signs of antisocial behaviour with preventative programs.
Ms Andrea Smith, Strategy and Communications Officer from the Western
Australia Aboriginal Family Law Service, described the importance of engaging
with people before their behaviour becomes criminal:
Before people reach criminal activity, there are usually a
lot of factors in their lives that lead to that behaviour. For us, they can be
issues particularly around experience of domestic violence in childhood and
out-of-home care as well as a result of the domestic violence that their
parents may experience. Then there are some important links between those two
factors and contact with or experience of offending behaviour and contact then
with detention centres, leading into criminal behaviour in adult life. For us,
those are important factors to prevent and avoid the need for legal assistance
services later down the track. For us, it is around preventing those factors
before they happen.
The Hon Wayne Martin AC, Chief Justice of the Western Australian (WA) Supreme
Court noted that 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure':
Nowhere is that more true than in the justice system. So if
we can identify people at risk and communities at risk.
[we can focus] resources on changing the conditions that put
those people in the criminal justice system... 
Victoria Police have identified that a disproportionate number of
persons in custody are Indigenous. As a result, Victoria Police are working to
prevent Indigenous incarceration. The focus is now on communication between
police and Indigenous elders, engaging with the youth communities, increasing
the number of Australian and Torres Strait Islander Police employees and
improving internal training:
Victoria Police partners with the Grampians Regional Justice
Advisory Committee as part of the annual Murray River Marathon, in which a
police and a Koori youth team compete. The objective is to engage with at risk
youths and create a diversion from concerning behaviour.
In Mildura and Swan Hill a Koori Youth Cautioning and
Diversion Program has been developed to support the use of cautioning as an
alternative to other criminal justice options for Koori youths, and to improve
the experiences of initial contact between Koori youths and the police.
Early intervention strategies seek to identify and address the
sociological contributors to criminal behaviour including a lack of community
support, financial disadvantage, poor physical and mental health and low
Ms Tammy Solonec, Indigenous Rights Manager, Amnesty International spoke
about the 'SHINE' early intervention school program which targets children who
are truant or disruptive at school:
When we talk about diversion, we think about that at the
court stage or the police stage—so they have got into trouble and can be
diverted. But with early interventions prior to that, like with the Shine
program that you are talking about, if a kid is starting to truant at school
and things are going badly then you want to get in right there. You want to be
able to help that child right there. We think that there does need to be
separate strategies for the younger children—perhaps strategies for them in how
to say 'no' if they are being pressured into doing things with older children.
I think we have to accept that Aboriginal kids hang around with their cousins,
brothers and sisters a lot of the time. A lot of things are done in group
Professor Elizabeth Jane Elliott AM, Paediatrics and Child Health, at
the University of Sydney Clinical School, discussed the Fitzroy Valley and the
early intervention training programs they are working to implement. Professor
Elliott and colleagues are looking at a 'positive parenting program' to assist
parents with children who have disruptive behavioural issues. Leaders in the
region are also looking at interventions to assist children in the classroom as
well to cope with impulse control:
[T]here has been quite a lot of training and education across
the professional groups during our study—police, teachers and health
professionals who come in contact with his children. I think in this community
we are seeing changes.
The National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) indicated
that Community Legal Centres (CLCs) use a range of early intervention and
preventative strategies such as:
...community legal education and community development,
individual skill building, systemic advocacy and law and policy reform
activities that assist individual clients, as well as disadvantaged and
vulnerable groups in the community, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people. 
However, NACLC commented that 2014 Commonwealth funding agreements will now
include clauses amending the definition of 'core legal services' to clarify
that this does not include law reform or policy advocacy. NACLC indicated that:
...while not explicitly preventing CLCs from undertaking this
work, failure to provide Commonwealth funding for these activities has had and
will continue to have an impact on the ability of CLCs to engage in this work,
to the detriment of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the community,
including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Several witnesses advocated for diversion programs to provide the
judiciary with the option to divert offenders from the criminal justice system
into educational programs.
The aim of a diversion program is to empower the offender and provide them with
the resources to stop future criminal offending.
Aboriginal controlled diversion
In 2006, the Western Australian Law Reform Commission (the Commission)
in its Final report on Aboriginal Customary Laws, indicated its strong
support for the development of Aboriginal-controlled diversionary programs,
particularly those which were determined by a 'community justice group'. The
Commission explained how it envisaged such diversionary programs would operate:
[W]here a community justice group exists, the members of the
group may decide to deal with a possible breach of Western Australian criminal
law. This approach would mean that there is no involvement in the criminal
justice system at all...
For Aboriginal children who have
committed minor offences, the Commission strongly encourages a community
justice group to deal with the matter without recourse to the criminal justice
system. For serious offences, such as violence or sexual assault, the
Commission considers it is vital that Aboriginal people are fully informed of
their rights under Australian law and supported by criminal justice agencies to
report the offence and have it dealt with by the criminal justice system.
The Commission recommended:
That the Western Australian government establish a
diversionary scheme for young Aboriginal people to be referred by the police to
a community justice group.
Amnesty International Australia and the Kimberley Aboriginal Law
and Culture Centre (KALACC) noted that the Commission's recommendation on
Aboriginal owned or controlled diversion programs had not been implemented:
According to the Department of Corrective Services, of the
programs available to the courts prior to sentencing and as part of
community-based orders, "none ... is currently Aboriginal owned or
controlled, however they are designed to be culturally appropriate to address
the over-representation of Aboriginal young people in the criminal justice
Submissions and witnesses argued for investment in Aboriginal owned and
controlled justice programs. For example, Chief Justice Martin made this point:
We have to encourage Aboriginal communities to take
responsibility for their members and to empower them and provide them with the
resources they need to live up to that responsibility. I think that far too
often we have been imposing solutions on Aboriginal communities, doing too much
talking and not enough listening.
Ms Solonec, Amnesty International, informed the committee:
We have found that Aboriginal people respond well to programs
that are run by Aboriginal people, particularly when children are led by elders
and able to go out to their country and connect with their culture and
identity. A lot of the programs which focused on building up an Aboriginal
person's identity, particularly a young person's identity, really helped steer
them onto the right path so that they would not repeat offend.
Mr Wesley Morris, Coordinator of KALACC, acknowledged that there is
still a role for the criminal justice system, however:
What we need is investment in Aboriginal owned and controlled
justice programs. We do not want to own the whole situation. There are some
very troublesome young people who do deserve to be behind bars and who deserve
to be incarcerated, and that is the role of government. But where we are
talking about preventative programs and young people who have made poor life
decisions there should be a community empowerment model.
As long [as] government thinks that it can solve those
community issues then we will continue to have these problems.
The Yiriman Project
The 'Yiriman Project', established in WA in 2000 is an
intergenerational, cultural program, conceived and developed by Elders from
four Kimberley language groups. The Yiriman Diversionary Project is an
intensive cultural immersion program that focuses on the concept of returning
Believing in the power of their own Culture and of Country to
heal their own young people, the Elders began taking young people out on to Country,
travelling over Country by foot, camel or vehicle, teaching and speaking in
language, visiting ancestral sites, storytelling, engaging in traditional song
and dance, preparing young people for ceremony and law practices, teaching
traditional crafts, tracking, hunting, and preparing traditional bush tucker,
practicing bush medicine, and passing on knowledge to the younger generations.
The Yiriman Project has carried out several diversionary programs
In 2009 at Fitzroy Crossing, Magistrate Bob Young bailed 15
boys to attend an intensive diversionary program run by the community Elders of
the Yiriman Project, following a spike in youth offending in the community. The
camp took place at Mt Pierre and Kupartiya pastoral stations in the Kimberley,
was led by local Elders and involved traditional knowledge transfer, work and
counseling by drug and alcohol, educational and vocational counselors over nine
A similar 10-week diversionary bush trip occurred in 2010 in
partnership with Magistrate Col Roberts. It occurred at the remote community of
In its submission the Australian Human Rights Commission referenced the Children's
Commissioner Megan Mitchell's comments from the Children's Rights Report 2014:
The Yiriman Project aims to 'build stories in young people'
and keep them alive and healthy by reacquainting them with country.' 
Amnesty International, quoting from the Productivity Commission's
Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report 2014, outlined that the Yiriman
...builds young people’s confidence and improves their self-worth,
and is considered to have helped curb suicide, self-harm and substance abuse in
the participating communities.
The committee was informed that the Yiriman Project's core funding does
not come from justice funding, rather:
...the core funding that we receive at the moment for Yiriman
comes from the Department of Social Services and from the Commonwealth
Department of Health under the National Suicide Prevention Program.
Amnesty International noted the lack of funding for these types of
The first camp run by the Yiriman Project was run without any
funding, drawing entirely on the limited resources and in-kind contributions of
KALACC staff and the Elders. The second camp run by the Yiriman Project was a
one-off grant from the Federal Government. Despite repeated applications, the
Yiriman Project has not secured any funding from the Department of Corrective
Services to deliver programs in the youth justice space.
Mr Morris, KALACC, informed the committee that the funding future for
the Yiriman Project looked more positive:
Just in the month of August, with the princely sum of
$20,000, we ran three camel walks in conjunction with the Fitzroy Crossing
police. That was funded by a small $20,000 grant from the Western Australian
police service. Two weeks ago we received from the Western Australian
Department of Corrective Services, through its Youth Justice Board, a draft
grant agreement worth $440,000 which will be for the years 2016 and 2017. That
will enable us to scale up our youth justice offerings into the future.
The Balund-a Program
The Balund-a Program in Tabulam is known by participants as a 'wall-less
prison.' The post-arrest diversionary program for adult male offenders aims to
reduce recidivism by enhancing offender's skills within a cultural and
supportive community environment:
Following acceptance into the program offenders participate
in structured programs within a culturally sensitive framework. Programs
address specific areas of risk to assist on improving life skills and
reintegration into the community, for example, cognitive based programs, drug
and alcohol, anger management, education and employability, domestic violence,
parenting skills and living skills. Cultural activities include excursions to
sacred sites, music, dance and art. Elders employed by the program provide
support and assist residents to recognise, restore and value cultural links
with their land and history.
Mr Adam Schreiber, Principal Manager of the Aboriginal Strategy and
Policy Unit, Corrective Services New South Wales, discussed the Tabulam
correctional centre, which he described as 'a last-chance opportunity before
[people] enter into custody—from the courts'.
Offenders are required to engage in alcohol and other drug programs to address
their offending behaviour. Mr Schreiber outlined the success of the Indigenous
We have a great connection with the local community, with a
number of our staff having been placed in that area. We have service provision.
We have an Aboriginal service and programs officer. On top of that we have 4.5
Aboriginal mentor positions made up of people from the local community and
involved with the local lands council, who provide cultural advice on what we
can do to assist offenders.
The committee received evidence contending that prisons do not reduce
crime or resolve the drivers of crime and imprisonment rates are dramatically
The committee heard that justice reinvestment is an alternative to
imprisonment, without compromising the safety of victims/survivors.
There is no single accepted definition of the term justice reinvestment.
However, justice reinvestment essentially refers to a policy approach to
criminal justice spending, whereby funds ordinarily spent on keeping
individuals in prison, are diverted to the development of programs and services
that aim to address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour in communities
that have high levels of incarceration.
Justice reinvestment has also been described as a form of preventative
...through which policy makers shift funds away from dealing
with problems 'downstream' (policing, prisons) and towards tackling them 'upstream'
(family breakdown, poverty, mental illness, drug and alcohol dependency).
Justice reinvestment is a collaborative partnership
between government and community that uses the following steps:
involves conducting analysis of data and trends affecting incarceration rates
in particular communities, including identification of the areas producing high
numbers of prisoners and the factors driving growth in prison populations.
- Develop options to generate savings
Development of both
legislative and policy based options to reverse the rates of incarceration and
increase the effectiveness of spending in the criminal justice arena.
- Quantify savings to reinvest
The savings from the
changes are quantified and reinvested back into communities which have high
incarceration rates through programs and services that address the underlying
- Measure and evaluate impact on identified communities
All stages of the
process are evaluated in order to ensure the sustainability of the reforms.
Examples of overseas justice reinvestment
Justice reinvestment was initially developed and implemented in the
United States (US) 
and has been introduced in various forms in the United Kingdom (UK) and New
Justice reinvestment in the US
Over the past decade several jurisdictions in the US have been trialling
justice reinvestment which:
...have realised millions of dollars of savings in corrections
budgets in the USA through reduced levels of imprisonment. Some of these
savings have been reinvested in capacity building and crime prevention projects
in communities that produce high numbers of offenders.
Critical to the US success is the presence of a strategic body
monitoring and quantifying outcomes:
In the US, an example of a justice reinvestment advisory body
is The Council of State Governments Justice Centre. The Justice Centre is [a]
organisation funded by a combination of Federal, State and private philanthropic
funds. Its functions are to:
- Identify communities
for a JR approach
- Support community
based strategy development, including advising on what evidence-based initiatives
will reduce offending/reoffending, increase community safety, and address disadvantage
- Build the capacity
of the community to implement the JR strategy and initiatives
- Monitor and
quantify the social and economic outcomes.
The trials have resulted in a reduction in imprisonment and re-offending
The US experience is commonly used as an example of the positive effects of
justice reinvestment. The Law Council of Australia (Law Council) reported that:
Connecticut, Georgia, Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Colorado all implemented legislative
changes to reduce the propensity for re-admission following parole violations
and breaches of probation, which generated substantial cost-savings ($50
million in Connecticut alone). That money was then reinvested in mental health
and substance abuse treatment programs, community-based pilots and other
evidence-based programs proven to increase the average time between release and
The Law Council also indicated that:
The most remarkable achievement of any US State has been in
California. In 2003, the State's prison population had [soared] and a report
released that year found that 70 per cent of the state's parole population
returned to prison within 18 months. As a result of policies implemented
between 2010 and 2013, the state's prison population fell by 2.1 per cent and
parole population reduced by 63 per cent.
The Law Council noted that these apparent successes, while useful for
evaluation purposes, should be viewed cautiously:
Whilst the reductions in Michigan's and Texas' prisoner
population have been described by some commentators as evidence in support of
justice reinvestment, other commentators have adopted a more cautious approach,
noting that "true correctional savings have been difficult to document and
even more problematic to capture," and
that the "impact on offending or recidivism from the reinvestment of these
savings into community-based crime prevention strategies will take a lot longer
Justice reinvestment in the UK
Justice reinvestment has also been trialled in the UK in an attempt to reduce incarceration rates:
... [it] comes in part as a response to the fact that growing
imprisonment rates are hugely expensive at a time of fiscal stringency, yet
provide very little return in addressing high recidivism rates, and indeed may
be counter – productive and criminogenic, contributing to social breakdown and
The Law Council, informed the committee that in the UK it was concluded
[T]here is a need for decentralisation of justice policy and
empowerment of local government authorities or governance structures, which are
better placed to identify the factors driving re-offending behaviour, For
example, in areas with higher rates of homelessness, mental illness and drug
problems, there is scope for increasing the rate of diversion for young
offenders and reducing reliance on custodial sentencing for those who could be
offered greater community-based support.
Justice reinvestment in NZ
The committee heard that in NZ, alternative 'justice models', such as
Maori courts and family group conferencing had been in existence since the
These alternative justice reinvestment models incorporate components of
traditional justice and are culturally sensitive.
In 1999 NZ adopted an 'Integrated Offender Management' corrections
policy which aimed for a greater involvement of Maori cultural leaders in
managing recidivism. More recently:
NZ adopted a Framework for Reduction of Maori Re-offending:
"The new range of targeted interventions has included the provision of new
kaupapa Maori programming, where inmates are able to access and participate in
aspects of Te Ao Maori: te reo [Maori] language programmes, general education
in tikanga, and Maori arts such as carving and weaving."
NZ prisons have established 'Maori focus units,' therapeutic programs,
designed to address rates of reoffending among Indigenous people.
The New Zealand Department of Corrections has commented:
Participants reported development in tikanga Māori and
strengthened cultural identity, and psychometric testing showed positive
progressions in offenders’ thinking patterns.
Previous senate inquiries
The committee notes that justice reinvestment has previously been
considered in great detail during previous Senate committee inquiries. In 2009 the
Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee held an inquiry
into 'Access to Justice'. The committee made 31 recommendations, one of which,
Recommendation 21, dealt with justice reinvestment:
In conjunction with Recommendation 1, the committee recommends
that the federal, state and territory governments recognise the potential
benefits of justice reinvestment, and develop and fund a justice reinvestment
pilot program for the criminal justice system.
In 2010 the then government noted the recommendation and suggested that:
The approach proposed for the justice reinvestment pilot
programs appears to be seeking to deliver similar benefits to many of the crime
prevention and diversionary projects funded under Section 298 of the Proceeds
a/Crime Act 2002 (Cth) and the now closed National Community Crime
Prevention Programme. It may be possible that lessons from relevant projects
funded under these programs could be used to inform consideration of the
potential effectiveness of justice reinvestment programs.
In 2013, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References
Committee held an inquiry into the 'value of a justice reinvestment approach to
criminal justice in Australia'. During the inquiry, the Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mr Mick Gooda advocated for
justice reinvestment to be trialled more broadly in the community:
I believe that Justice Reinvestment also provides
opportunities for communities to take back some control. If it is to work
properly it means looking at options for diversion from prison but more
importantly, it means looking at the measures and strategies that will prevent
offending behaviour in the first place. The community has to be involved and
committed to not only taking some ownership of the problem but also some
ownership of the solutions...I think we need to change the narrative from one of
punishment to one of community safety. Funding people to go to prison might
make people feel safer, but a far better way would be to stop the offending in
the first place, and Justice Reinvestment provides that opportunity.
The committee made nine recommendations, including that the 'Commonwealth
adopt a leadership role in supporting the implementation of justice
reinvestment, through the Council of Australian Governments' and 'the
Commonwealth commit to the establishment of a trial of justice reinvestment in
Australia in conjunction with the relevant states and territories, using a
place-based approach, and that at least one Indigenous community be included as
The committee understands that a justice reinvestment approach to
criminal justice has garnered broad interest across a range of stakeholder
groups. However, to date, the government has not provided a response to the
recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References
Committee in its 2013 report.
Justice reinvestment in Australia
In Australia, justice reinvestment has also been suggested as an approach
to address the high rates of Indigenous incarceration.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner noted in
his 2014 Social Justice and Native Title Report that:
There are persuasive arguments for trialling this approach in
the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contexts given the high levels of
overrepresentation and disadvantage faced by these communities. The principles
of a justice reinvestment approach include localism, community control and
better cooperation between local services. These also align with what we know about
human rights-based practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service
Beyond these reasons, the reality is that if we were to map
the locations with the highest concentrations of offenders, many of these
locations would have very high numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islanders living in them.
While acknowledging that there is still some uncertainty about how a
justice reinvestment approach would operate in Australia, the Law Council noted
the benefits, particularly in Indigenous communities:
Despite having a greater understanding of the underlying
causes of Indigenous involvement in the criminal justice system, governments at
both the state and federal level continue to struggle with how best to address
this serious social issue. Justice reinvestment has been suggested by some
advocates as an approach that may provide a framework for addressing this
issue. In fact, several aspects of this
approach have been described as being beneficial to Indigenous offenders and
their communities. These include the ability of a justice reinvestment approach
to focus on community building through crime prevention as opposed to the
weakening of communities through imprisonment; and the ability of justice
reinvestment to address the multiple underlying causes of offending. Another benefit of justice reinvestment is its
ability to provide sustainable sources of funding for culturally appropriate
community programs such as Indigenous healing programs and residential drug and
NACLC considered a justice reinvestment approach to be 'a crucial
element of addressing the high levels of imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples'.
One of the key elements in any solution focussed on
addressing over-representation in the criminal justice system is to address
disadvantage, including through approaches such as justice reinvestment which
seek to divert funding from prisons to community programs. Accordingly NACLC
strongly supports investment in community-based and led programs that seek to
address the issues and disadvantage underlying offending behaviour.
NACLC added that to introduce a justice reinvestment approach:
the Commonwealth Government must play a leadership role in
encouraging state and territory governments to adopt justice reinvestment
additional research, funding and pilot programs are an important
justice reinvestment approaches must be tailored to the needs of
the particular community and must involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
peoples and communities in determining how such approaches are implemented in
Trials of justice reinvestment have begun in some Australian communities.
While still in its infancy, these programs have been met with support and have
been hailed as 'a grass roots solution to a grassroots problem'.
Bourke, a small remote town in New South Wales, has an Indigenous
population of 30 percent who belong to over 20 language groups.
The Bourke Aboriginal Community Working Party (BACWP), led by Mr Alistair
Ferguson, approached Just Reinvest NSW in October 2012 to commence a justice
reinvestment program in the region:
In late 2012 Just Reinvest NSW began working with the Bourke community
to develop a Justice Reinvestment approach. This was as a response to community
concerns over the lack of detailed outcome‐driven
evaluations of the numerous programs delivering services into Bourke and the short‐term nature of the funding
allocated by government for these programs. In order to provide effective programs
and services, the Bourke community has identified a critical need for a framework
that will provide long-term, sustainable funding.
Ms Sarah Hopkins, Chairperson of Just Reinvest NSW outlined that the
Bourke program emerged as a:
...response to the community's concerns over the level of youth
offending and what they perceived as an urgent need for a coordinated and
effective approach to early intervention, crime prevention and diversion...
One of the key aims of the Bourke justice reinvestment model is:
[To] convince all tiers of Government to shift policy and
spending from incarceration and services which are currently not effectively
utilized in the community, to be reinvested into programs which address the
underlying causes of youth crime and meet community need.
At the public hearing in Canberra, Mr Gooda commented on the unique
process undertaken in Bourke:
We decided to work with the community in a real and meaningful
way. We did not start off with a plan; we just started talking to people. My
role out there was to chair community meetings as an independent person from
outside of Bourke. We spent about 18 months doing that, just talking to people,
the community talking amongst themselves, before they were ready to make their
first foray into change.
Having utilised a lengthy process of consultation Mr Gooda reflected on
the positives of the Bourke program:
I think the key to what is happening at Bourke is that the
Bourke community runs it, the Bourke community owns it, and they are the ones
that coordinate all the service providers.
In evidence to the committee, Ms Hopkins reiterated this point:
In terms of our engagement with community, Mick Gooda and I
went to Bourke on many occasions, having some small meetings, then larger
meetings and then we met at the TAFE hall with, I think, 60 community members
there. It took a long time to gain the trust and to allow the community to take
the lead. Mick was always very clear: we would not return to Bourke unless we
were invited, and nothing would be formulated in terms of a plan. He used to
call 'plan' the 'P-word'. There was nothing we formulated in terms of a plan
unless the community were driving it. I think there is an idea of a new way of
doing business to create that trust. It needs to happen.
The Bourke project has collected an extensive amount of data to not only
understand a person's passage through the criminal justice system but how the
community manages in terms of offending, diversion, bail, sentencing,
punishment and recidivism.
Data has also been collected on early life outcomes, education, employment,
housing, healthcare (including mental health), child safety and drugs and
alcohol. As a result:
They have identified and the government is now implementing a
number of cross-sector initiatives or 'circuit breakers'...including three
justice circuit breakers addressing breaches of bail, outstanding warrants and
the need for a learner driver program in Bourke.
However, at the public hearing in Canberra, Ms Hopkins indicated that
the acquisition of data to understand the situation and be able to monitor it
effectively as one of the greatest challenges of the project:
Access to data, the process of obtaining data, updating data,
getting the right data and going back and forward has been very onerous, time
consuming and complex. Without having a position resourced to be able to do
that on behalf of the community, I would not think it is possible.
Cowra Justice Reinvestment Project
Dr Jill Guthrie from the Australian National University is leading an
exploratory study in the NSW community of Cowra to evaluate the theory,
methodology and potential use of a justice reinvestment approach to addressing
crime. Dr Guthrie's study has a particular focus on the imprisonment of Cowra's
young people (indigenous and non-indigenous).
Dr Jill Guthrie explained the focus of the research:
This study is a conversation with the town to explore what
are the conditions, the understandings, the agreements that would need to be in
place in order to return those juveniles who are incarcerated in detention
centres away from the town, back to the town, and to keep those juveniles who
are at risk of incarceration from coming into contact with the criminal justice
Participation in the project by the Cowra community has
enabled the team to identify issues underlying the incarceration of its young people.
Specifically, community groups and organisations have been consulted throughout
the project to assist in identifying effective alternatives to prison which ought
to be invested in, such as holistic and long-term initiatives, and better
integrated services. Young people will also be interviewed about their
experiences and suggestions for change.
The Cowra research aims to build an evidence base for justice
reinvestment that may be used for future advocacy.
In 2015 South Australia began to look at addressing the
over-representation of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system. The
South Australian Government has committed to implementing justice reinvestment
Port Adelaide has been selected as a potential trial area. In
order to get it right from the start, we need to consider what the community
might think about it and how it might work.
In July and August 2015, the Attorney-General's Department
(with support from PwC’s Indigenous Consulting (PIC)) began consultation with
community members, service providers, government, non-government organisations
and others about what a trial justice reinvestment project could look like for
Port Adelaide. Further work is being undertaken to refine the scope of the
trial and further [engagement] process.
Australian Capital Territory
In 2010, the ACT Government entered into a formal 'Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Justice Agreement' (from 2010-2013) with the ACT's Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander elected body as a step towards addressing the
over-representation of indigenous persons in incarceration.
The ACT's current partnership (committed to from 2015-2018) seeks to continue
the work of the original agreement in addressing:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander over-representation in
the ACT justice system, as both victims and offenders, and to reduce the
incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT.
It seeks to improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people in ACT through the development and implementation of policies and
programs that have long-term benefits for the local community.
It is clear that traditional approaches to reducing
incarceration do not work, or do not work as effectively, in relation to the
incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The ACT is also working on reducing the offences for which people can be
incarcerated and providing an option for imprisonment to be served in the
community (an intensive correction order):
Combined with other justice reform program initiatives, such
as a proposed bail support program, the ACT Government has committed to
reducing the incarceration rate.
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