The methodology and objectives of justice reinvestment
This chapter canvasses the methodology and the objectives of justice
reinvestment as well as its implementation in overseas jurisdictions.
What is justice reinvestment?
Justice reinvestment was initially developed in the United States as a
means of curbing spending on corrections and reinvesting savings from this
reduced spending in strategies that can decrease crime and strengthen
neighbourhoods. The South Australian Justice Reinvestment Working Group noted
that 'the approach is based on evidence that a significant proportion of
offenders come from, and return to, a small number of communities'.
It involves long, medium and short term strategies. Funding is provided for tailored
programs in those communities to strengthen the community and address the
causes of crime to mitigate against individuals being caught up in the criminal
justice system. Those who have committed offences are diverted away from prison
using other forms of punishment and those likely to reoffend are prevented from
doing so through effective rehabilitation, parole supervision and after-prison
Mission Australia stated that 'the rationale for justice reinvestment is
that diverting human and financial resources to disadvantaged communities and
vulnerable people to address the underlying causes of crime will produce better
value for money and long term economic benefit'.
It is argued that services that reduce the risk of crime are more cost
effective than passage through the criminal justice system.
Professor Chris Cunneen, Australian Justice Reinvestment Project, commented:
...there was a clear conceptualisation that mass imprisonment
affecting a small number of communities was increasing the dysfunction within
those communities. So an underpinning to this was the need to shift mass
imprisonment towards community development. It has always had a very strong
community development focus, so that, when the savings occur, they actually do
represent some money going into those communities to strengthen and build those
communities. It is a very different approach to dealing with crime from that of
mass imprisonment. It is one that is built around the idea of community
The South Australian Justice Reinvestment Working Group concluded that 'if
properly implemented, Justice Reinvestment can reduce crime and imprisonment,
improve public safety and strengthen our most disadvantaged communities, all
without breaking the budget'.
Supporters of justice reinvestment note that it involves 'smarter'
spending rather than more spending: funding for future costs related to imprisonment,
such as new prisons, is diverted to community-based programs and services that
address the underlying causes of crime. Justice reinvestment does not advocate
getting rid of prisons, rather that detention is a measure of last resort for dangerous
and serious offenders. In addition, justice reinvestment does not aim to strip
money away from already underfunded prison services and programs. For example,
in the US, additional monies have often been shifted to fund both community and
in-prison mental health and substance abuse services.
Another major characteristic of justice reinvestment is that it requires
a collaborative partnership between government and community. It aims to
strengthen communities and to include them in a collaborative process to
address the underlying cause of crime and imprisonment. The Law Council of
Justice reinvestment relies heavily on interactions between
agencies at both the state and local level. It also has a significant community-focus,
seeking "community-level solutions to community-level problems". It
is these aspects of justice reinvestment, along with its evidence-based
approach and focus on addressing and preventing the underlying causes of crime
such as unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse, that have given rise to the
growing support for justice reinvestment in recent years throughout the world.
Mr Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
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.
Methodology of a justice reinvestment approach
Justice reinvestment involves advancing 'fiscally sound, data driven
criminal justice policies to break the cycle of recidivism, avert prison
expenditure and make communities safer'.
Four steps are undertaken in the justice reinvestment approach:
demographic/justice mapping and analysis of data; development of options;
implementation; and evaluation.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner's
Social Justice Report 2009 stated that '[a] holistic analysis of the
criminal justice system is a key feature of the justice reinvestment
methodology. Consideration is given to policing, judicial systems, probation
and parole, prevention programs, community supervision and diversion options as
well as the geographic mapping.'
Justice mapping provides the means to identify where offenders are coming from
(and returning to) by the collection, analysis and mapping of data about
crimes, convictions, imprisonment and parole.
Justice mapping is different from crime mapping. Crime mapping
identifies locations of high activity which may become the focus of increased
policing. Sara Hudson, in her monograph for The Centre for Independent
Studies (CIS), noted that crime mapping can have the effect of displacing
criminal behaviour to other locations rather than reducing overall offending.
Justice mapping allows policy makers to target the locations where offenders
come from, and return to, so that programs to reduce crime can be introduced.
The justice data obtained is cross-referenced against indicators of
disadvantage and gaps in available services to help identify the underlying
causes of crime in these communities. Experience in the United States indicates
that this type of data and analysis was often lacking in jurisdictions before
justice reinvestment was considered.
The House of Commons Justice Committee, in its review of justice
reinvestment, identified the significant elements required to support this
stage of the justice reinvestment approach:
- the expertise and capacity to undertake justice mapping and interpret
- the availability of data to input into the mapping process; and
- the existence of costs data on current service provision to offenders
in a particular locality both within, and external to, the criminal justice
Develop options for reducing
offending and to generate savings
Once communities or localities have been identified, options are
developed for decision makers. The options may provide initial savings to
corrections or reduce the number of people going into prison in the first
place. The options to generate savings in the United States have included
changes in how technical matters such as parole violations or bail matters are
dealt with and providing community based alternatives to imprisonment of
Options to reduce offending are also identified. This allows decisions
makers to implement effective programs to curtail offending and to strengthen
communities. NATSILS commented that 'it is important to emphasise that this
process involves identifying savings that can then be reinvested and as such is
a diversion or shifting of spending rather than an increase in
Programs and services are generally focused on poverty, education,
housing, healthcare and public amenities. However, NATSILS noted that an
important part of this stage is the recognition that a one-size-fits-all approach
is not appropriate and the justice reinvestment plan for each community
identified will need to be based on the specific drivers of crime and the 'community
assets' of that community. NATSILS also emphasised that it is essential for
government to partner with the community in identifying the needs of that
community as well as the solutions.
Both the Australian Justice Reinvestment Project and Just Reinvest NSW
supported this view.
Just Reinvest NSW commented that justice reinvestment is not purely
data-driven: 'the experiences, perceived needs and capacities expressed by the
community are instrumental in developing tailored programs to address offending
and, at the same time, achieving social justice outcomes'.
Just Reinvest NSW identified best practice characteristics of
- Government entering into genuine government/community partnership
with the community;
- power devolving to the local level through local governance
structures comprised of government departments, community organisations and
- the local governance structure supported and enabled by a skilled
- time and resources are invested into building trust between
stakeholders, creating a shared vision for change, establishing effective
governance, and developing a justice reinvestment implementation plan;
- ongoing engagement and participation mechanisms are created to
allow community members and other stakeholders to input into decision making;
- the community is supported to determine, monitor and evaluate
their justice reinvestment initiatives;
- the capacity of the community is enhanced to identify and tackle
their own challenges; and
- sufficient time and resources are allocated over the long-term.
The House of Commons Justice Committee also identified the significant
elements required to support this stage of the justice reinvestment approach:
- agreement on which departments, agencies or partnerships constitute
- the existence of a mechanism to generate options for policymakers
to manage the growth in the prison population and probation caseloads;
- the existence of a robust, high quality, evidence base of the cost-effectiveness
of alternative approaches to manage the growth in the prison population; and
- the willingness and capacity of policymakers to adopt the policies
Analysis of the options developed under stage two provides policymakers with
the level of costs which could be saved or avoided by adopting some or all of
the options identified for reducing the use of imprisonment. Plans are then
developed to reallocate the savings (all or part) to the targeted communities.
Under the justice reinvestment approach there is rigorous, ongoing
evaluation to measure the impact of reinvestment and the functioning of the
criminal justice system as a whole. This is a critical part of the justice
reinvestment approach to ensure that projected results and benefits are being
achieved. Monitoring and evaluation must ensure that the projected savings are
being realised and that the reinvestment of these funds is having the desired
effect on offending and incarceration rates.
The House of Commons Justice Committee identified the elements of
effective evaluation as:
- appropriate performance measures including, for example, the
amount justice expenditure saved or avoided; recidivism rates; and benefits to
- appropriate monitoring systems to collate data across agencies on
outcomes and the capacity of agencies to collect, record and monitor the data
- the expertise to review how closely the actual impact corresponds
to projections; and
- commissioning arrangements to enable changes to be made to the
delivery of services in the event that the policies are not having the desired
Justice reinvestment in overseas jurisdictions
The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in
the world. While the US has only five per cent of the world's population, its
prisons hold a quarter of all prisoners worldwide.
The US also has very high recidivism rates with two-thirds of offenders being
A factor contributing to the growth in prison population has been
'tough-on-crime' policies. The Council of State Government (CSG) Justice Center
noted that 'these aggressive policies have in turn drained critical state
resources and produced dismal results in addressing the root causes of the
crimes they seek to prevent'.
Justice reinvestment emerged at a time when US government and
stakeholders were acknowledging that the continued increase of already high
incarceration rates was not sustainable for government budgets nor was it
improving public safety. Justice reinvestment, with its emphasis on reducing
prison population numbers and the diversion of savings to support communities with
high incarceration rates, was seen as delivering two important aims: reduction
in costs in the penal system and interrupting the prison-community cycle.
It was recognised that data was fundamental to the planning and the
delivery of justice reinvestment approaches. The Bureau of Justice Assistance
Justice reinvestment is a data-driven approach to improve
public safety, reduce corrections and related criminal justice spending, and
reinvest savings in strategies that can decrease crime and strengthen
neighborhoods. The purpose of justice reinvestment is to manage and allocate
criminal justice populations more cost-effectively, generating savings that can
be reinvested in evidence-based strategies that increase public safety while
holding offenders accountable. States and localities engaging in justice
reinvestment collect and analyze data on drivers of criminal justice
populations and costs, identify and implement changes to increase efficiencies,
and measure both the fiscal and public safety impacts of those changes.
The justice reinvestment strategy is being led by the agencies including
the Pew Center and the CSG Justice Center. The CSG Justice Center provides
assistance 'where leaders have demonstrated bipartisan, inter-branch interest
in justice reinvestment, a willingness to provide access to data, and financial
commitment to support some of the costs associated with technical assistance'.
The CSG Justice Center provides technical assistance to states to analyse the factors
driving high incarceration rates so that governments can identify locations
most in need of reinvestment. Common issues that were identified in various
states as leading to increased rates of incarceration include unequal
employment opportunities; lack of access to substance abuse/mental health
services in the community; and lack of appropriate incentives/sanctions to
encourage offenders to comply with the conditions of probation/parole. Other
factors were also identified as specific to certain states.
Development of reinvestment policies using savings from the state
corrections budget is undertaken. Common policies developed by states include
diversionary programs, substance abuse and mental health treatment programs,
intensive supervision programs, increasing access to parole reporting services,
and increasing employment opportunities. The CSG Justice Center encourages the
use of risk assessments to direct funding and services to those most at need.
The CSG Justice Center also ensures that policies are developed in a
manner that is consistent with the ethos of the justice reinvestment program.
The 3-Step Justice Reinvestment Process allows for states to develop specific
solutions to specific problems within their state, but also allows for
evaluation and comparison of results between states. The state-level approach
allows states to take responsibility for the inequalities in their own
communities which contribute to the rates of offending.
There are now 27 states which have participated in the justice
reinvestment initiative under the auspices of the Center and approximately 18
of those states have enacted justice reinvestment legislation for the purpose
of stabilising corrections populations and budgets.
Another five states are pursuing justice reinvestment independently or through
A feature of justice reinvestment is that it does not result in the same
'one-size-fits-all' policies being adopted. However, it has been noted that 'the
states that have pursued such an initiative all share a common result: reduced
spending on corrections, with the averted costs or savings reinvested in
strategies to increase public safety'.
The following discussion canvasses the experience of the justice
reinvestment approach in Texas, Kansas and Pennsylvania.
Despite having spent $2.3 billion between 1983 and 1997 to increase the
number of new prison beds, by 2007 Texas was experiencing increasing pressure
on its prison system. The prison population exceeded capacity by 3,000
individuals and was projected to increase by 14,000 people within five years. To
meet the demand for new prison places, Texas planned expenditure of $523 million
to build additional prisons and an extra $184 million in emergency contracted
capacity to rent detention spaces in county gaols.
Mapping of the prison population was undertaken to identify the communities
where offenders were coming from. This included five counties which accounted
for more than half of the people imprisoned at a cost over half a billion
dollars. It was also found that 50 per cent of former prisoners returned to
neighbourhoods that accounted for only 15 per cent of the Houston population.
Analysis by the CSG Justice Center pointed to factors which had
contributed to the growth in the prison population:
increasing numbers of probation revocations between 1997 and
- reductions in funding for community-based substance abuse and
mental health services resulting in increasing numbers of people waiting for
space in treatment programs or facilities; and
- lower than suggested numbers of people being approved for parole
based on risk levels and severity of the crime.
In May 2007, Texas enacted a justice reinvestment package of criminal
justice legislation. The new policies included an expansion of in-prison and
community-based treatment and diversion programs to reduce rates of re-offence
and revocations to prison. These policies included new beds in half-way houses
to divert probation and parole violators away from prison or to assist in
re-entry. Policies were also directed at parole and probation practices and
included establishing a maximum limit for parole caseload to ensure adequate
supervision and establishing incentives for counties that created progressive
sanctioning models for probation officers to respond effectively to violations
The outcome of these policies has been a decline in the rate of
recidivism for people on community supervision: between 2006 and 2009, the
parole revocation to prison rate decreased 29 per cent and the probation
revocation to prison rate declined by 3 per cent. The impact on prison
population has been significant with the prison population stabilising and a projected
minimal future growth. Between January 2007 and December 2008, the Texas prison
population increased by only 529 individuals rather than the projected
increase for the period of 5,141 individuals. The prison population decreased by
1,125 individuals between December 2008 and August 2010. The introduction of
justice reinvestment policies have been cited as the reason for the
stabilisation of the prison population which is expected to remain below
operating capacity through to 2015. This is a significant outcome given the initial
projected growth in the Texas prison population by approximately 17,000 people
over five years from 2007.
Texas recorded savings of $443.9 million in 2008–09 including
savings from the cancellation of plans to build new prison units. Savings were
reinvested in treatment and diversion programs including $241 million to expand
the capacity of substance abuse, mental health, and intermediate sanctions
facilities and programs that focussed on people under supervision who would
otherwise likely be revoked to prison. In addition, Texas reinvested a portion
of its savings in the Nurse-Family Partnerships Program, a nationally
recognized model that pairs nurses with first-time, low-income mothers during the
child's first two years.
In 2007, it was predicted that the prison population in Kansas would
increase by 22 per cent by 2016. To rein in this growth, Kansas legislators
decided to develop and implement a justice reinvestment strategy.
Analysis by the CSG Justice Center identified the factors driving the
prison population growth as probation and parole revocations. The majority of
revocations were for conditions violations such as alcohol or drug use. In
addition, 58 per cent of people revoked on probation supervision demonstrated a
need for substance abuse or mental health treatment. Most people were released
from prison without participating in programs which could reduce their risk of
reoffending including substance abuse treatment and vocational education.
In 2007, legislation in Kansas was introduced which provided for:
creation of a performance-based grant program for community
corrections programs to design local strategies that could reduce revocations
by 20 per cent;
- establishment of a 60-day credit for people who successfully
completed educational, vocational, and treatment programs prior to release; and
- restoration of earned-time credits for good behaviour for non-violent
Kansas also implemented strategies to increase public safety. The New
Communities Initiative brought together state, county, community and city
leaders to design a comprehensive set of strategies aimed at addressing the
needs of a single neighbourhood in Wichita which was identified as having a
high level of incarceration. This neighbourhood was a high user of food stamps,
unemployment insurance and other welfare measures. The strategies were aimed at
addressing children and youth; behavioural, mental and physical health; adult education
and economic viability; safe and secure communities; and housing.
Following the implementation of the legislation, Kansas experienced a
decline in the number of people, both probationers and parolees, revoked to
prison from community supervision. Between 2007 and 2010, the prison population
increased by only ten individuals rather than the projected 700 people.
However, in 2010 incarcerations increased and are expected to continue to
increase. The increase has been linked to the defunding, in the wake of the
global financial crisis, of many of the programs introduced to reduce
reoffending. In addition, new admissions have also contributed to the increase.
These new admissions involve 'off-grid' offenders: those offenders whose crimes
are considered too serious to be eligible for automatic release on parole once
their minimum term is served, minus any 'goodtime' earned by way of completion
of risk reduction programs. The introduction of 'Jessica's Law'
has been linked to the rapid increase in the 'off-grid' category of inmates.
The Kansas legislature is now looking at options for alternative measures to
turn around their newly growing imprisonment rates.
Like other US states, Pennsylvania's spending on its prison system
increased substantially between 2000 and 2011 from $1.1 billion to $1.9
billion, an increase of 76 per cent while the number of prisoners increased by
40 per cent. From 2007, funding received by local law enforcement projects from
both the federal and state government decreased by 87 per cent.
In 2012, in response to the adverse impact on the state's budget of
growing costs of the prison system and the negative effect of budget cuts on
local law enforcement, the state introduced legislation containing a framework based
on a justice reinvestment approach. The legislation aimed at reinvesting a
portion of the savings generated by more effective corrections and parole
policies in strategies to assist local law enforcement in crime prevention,
provide more resources to probation departments, support crime victim services
and expand the utilisation of risk assessment.
The development of the framework was assisted by the CSG Justice Center
and three policy priority areas were identified:
- reduce the number of people sent to state prison for sentences
under one year – one third of individuals in prison were found to have less
than one year to serve on their minimum sentence, thus making it difficult for
them to engage in treatment programs and for the timely review of cases by the
Parole Board. This was addressed by allowing those prisons convicted of two
lowest-level misdemeanor offence categories to serve a local sanction rather than
a prison sentence. The aim was to reduce the people admitted to prison on very
short sentences by 30 per cent by 2017;
heighten the efficiency of the corrections and parole systems –
in Pennsylvania prisoners must be considered for parole after reaching their
minimum sentence. However, with the increasing prison numbers, review of parole
cases was backlogged. It was found that this situation was exacerbated by lack
of coordination between agencies. Policy options for the parole system aimed at
increasing the number of parole cases reviewed each month by 20 per cent by
- refocus costly community-based residential programs to target
high risk and high need individuals – while the state was providing over $100
million each year to community-based residential programs to reduce recidivism,
these programs were not targeting individuals on parole who could benefit most.
Policy options were identified with the aim of better targeting these programs.
The implementation of the policy framework is expected to increase
public safety and generate up to $253 million in cost savings by 2017. The
Pennsylvania legislation requires that a portion of the savings be reinvested
in public safety improvements over the next six years, for example, police
officer training, department accreditation and competitive grants for
data-driven law enforcement strategies. Other initiatives include grants to county
probation and parole departments to implement evidence-based practices,
improvements to victim notification and state-wide technology, and the
development of risk assessment at sentencing.
Similar to the US, the United Kingdom has experienced an increase in its
prison population despite a 42 per cent decline in the amount of crime being
reported since 1995. This growth was attributed to the creation of 3,000 new
offences by the UK Government, of which about half attract a prison sentence.
The UK has had a history of continued investment in the prison system in a bid
to keep up with the increasing demand for space. However, the increasing
expenditure on prison infrastructure and the impact of the global financial
crisis has resulted in the UK considering a justice reinvestment approach.
In January 2010, the Justice Committee of the House of Commons published
its report, Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment. The report
evaluated the direction of policy and spending on the criminal justice system
in the UK. The Justice Committee stated that there were three reasons for
undertaking the inquiry:
the criminal justice system is a complex network of agencies with
substantial public funding operating under increasing pressure but the different
parts of the system did not seem to be pursuing the same goals or making cogent
contributions to an agreed overarching purpose;
- the Government's policy in response to overcrowding of prisons
and the predicted rise in the prison population, is to provide more prison
places rather than to seek to address the root causes of growth; and
- authorities and agencies outside the criminal justice system—with
relevant objectives, remits and funding—could take more effective action to
reduce both the number of people entering, and re-entering, the criminal justice
The Justice Committee identified a range of factors contributing to the
rate of incarceration including social exclusion (particularly among young
people), mental ill-health, drug and alcohol dependency, and low levels of
literacy and numeracy. It concluded that a justice reinvestment approach
offered potential solutions to the challenge of high incarceration rates. In
its report, the Justice Committee presented what it called a blueprint for the
future implementation of justice reinvestment in England and Wales. However, it
noted that 'a piecemeal approach would be unlikely to work and a holistic
approach to reform is necessary'.
Following the Justice Committee's report, a number of pilot programs
have been established in the UK, including four youth justice reinvestment
pathfinder pilots with the aim of reducing the number of nights spent in
custody among young people.
The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department commented that the justice
reinvestment approach in the UK has had a much greater focus on reducing
offending behaviour and improving community safety rather than focussing
primarily on incarceration. As a consequence, the savings in the UK from
justice reinvestment approaches are not expected to be as large as in the US.
The tailored strategies adopted in the UK involve funding partnerships across
government, the non-government sector and the private sector in, for example,
the form of social impact bonds. This funding is then invested in community
development and community safety, including targeted prevention, intervention
and diversion programs.
ALHR also noted that England has various pilot programs adopted at local
level, including social investment schemes. These involve raising funds from
investors, shifting financial risk from the government and providers to
investors (investors receive returns on their investment depending on the
reduction in reoffending). ALHR commented that this approach makes it difficult
to measure outcomes accurately in determining returns to investors, and
difficult to ensure that local communities will have the flexibility to use
funding as they see fit. In England there are also incentives for private
prison operators who can demonstrate a reduction in the rate of offending.
Incentives for local justice reinvestment pilot programs have also been
used. Where local authorities can demonstrate reductions in reoffending rates,
the savings are shared between the Ministry of Justice and local areas. Various
strategies have been used by local authorities such as intensive support programs
for recently released offenders; providing substance abuse; mental health and housing
services; and building partnerships between offenders and key stakeholder. Funding
for these programs is often dependent on the local authority being able to demonstrate
a reduction in recidivism rates over the period of a few years.
In 2011, the UK Justice Minister sought to give courts greater capacity
to make non-custodial sentences. As a consequence, three prisons, with a total
of 800 beds, closed.
The Law Council of Australia commented that the UK Government is
currently in the process of looking at ways that it could comprehensively
reform its criminal justice system with the Prime Minister, Mr David
Cameron, stating that the Government must 'think hard about dealing with the
causes of crime and focus on the implementation of initiatives that focus on
preventing crime in the first place'. The Law Council of Australia noted that '[w]hilst
a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice does not appear to have
been explicitly endorsed by Mr Cameron to date, it may be that aspects of this
approach will be adopted by the British Government at some point in the future'.
Evaluation of justice reinvestment approaches in overseas jurisdictions
Supporters of a justice reinvestment approach pointed to successes in
the US with the stabilisation, and in some cases decrease, of imprisonment
rates, particularly in Texas. Significant cost savings have accrued in many
jurisdictions and these savings have been used to provide services in targeted
There are several key factors of the justice reinvestment approach
common across US jurisdictions. First, there has been bipartisan support at the
political level for a justice reinvestment approach. Secondly, central
organisations, principally the CSG Justice Center, have provided significant
guidance and support for data collection, analysis and policy development. Importantly,
the CSG Center has enabled measurement of results.
Thirdly, the justice reinvestment approach has been implemented through
Fourthly, with the help of central organisations, strategies have been
implemented that take into account and address the specific needs of each
location rather than being a one-size-fits-all approach.
However, recent evaluations of justice reinvestment in the US and evidence
received by the committee pointed to some issues of concern.
In a paper published in April 2013, an evaluation was undertaken of the
implementation of justice reinvestment in the US.
It was concluded that 'while [the Justice Reinvestment Initiative] has played a
significant role in softening the ground and moving the dial on mass
incarceration reform, it is not an unmitigated success story; the picture is
complex and nuanced'. Further, the paper asserts that the Justice Reinvestment
Initiative has moved away from its original goal of seeking to reduce the
number of prisoners and is now focussed on reducing the growth rate of prison
numbers. Investment has not been steered toward the communities most weakened
by aggressive criminal justice policies.
Five major reasons were identified for the failure of the Justice
Reinvestment Initiative in the US to achieve the dual objectives of sustained
reductions in state correctional populations and stronger, safer communities:
- efforts that focus on crafting legislation often incorporate
statutory reforms that will not significantly reduce admissions and lengths of
stay, especially for people convicted of serious and violent crimes;
- activities have typically focussed on state government policy
makers and state-level reforms, eschewing and sometimes excluding other
important state and local constituencies;
- the initial short-term, intensive analysis and technical
assistance provided by central organisations did not assist in building
capacity at the state and local level to assume responsibility for monitoring
and evaluating implementation and outcomes for genuine justice reform over the
- increasingly, reinvestment in high incarceration communities has
been abandoned as a key element and goal with the result that resources are
vulnerable to the claims of other criminal justice agencies including increased
investment in law enforcement; and
- there had been insufficient attention to the problem of
structural disincentives that discourage and inhibit officials at all levels of
government from pursuing local, innovative, non-incarceration public safety
The paper called for a revamped, reenergised justice reinvestment
program and recommended a justice reinvestment approach that would:
- reaffirm and commit to achieving the two primary goals of the
Justice Reinvestment Initiative, that is, significant reductions in all forms
of incarceration and correctional supervision, and reinvestment in high
- involve key stakeholders and non-government entities at the state
and local levels throughout the planning, legislating, implementation and
reinvestment process; and
- create a multi-year plan for implementation and evaluation beyond
short-term legislative or policy fixes.
Issues of concern with the implementation of justice reinvestment in the
US and UK were also raised in evidence received by the committee. These
concerns included the lack of a clear definition of justice reinvestment, lack
of rigorous evaluation of its success and the focus on immediate upfront
savings through basic justice reform.
The Australian Justice Reinvestment Project commented on the lack of
academic or critical treatment of justice reinvestment and stated that as a
consequence 'caution is warranted'. The Australian Justice Reinvestment Project
and other submitters pointed to comments by researchers Professor Clear and Dr Shadd
Maruna. Professor Todd Clear noted that many of the details of justice
reinvestment are 'left up for grabs'. Further, the success of justice
reinvestment strategies in the US has been achieved 'despite the fact that it
is an "idea in progress rather than a full-fledged strategy"'. In
addition, Dr Maruna argued that the concept is only hazily defined, is not
based on a 'strong empirical foundation' and does not really qualify being a
Ms Melanie Schwartz, Australian Justice Reinvestment Project, went on to
While the application of justice reinvestment strategies has
led to significant savings in costs in corrections in a number of US states,
the implementation of these strategies has largely not yet been subject to
thorough examination. Reasons for caution from the US experience include
questions around: what can maximise the chances of sustained rather than only
an initial drop in prison numbers; whether fiscal savings are actually being
substantially committed to community reinvestment; and which programs or
organisations are being funded under these reinvestment programs?
The Law Council of Australia also noted that commentators have adopted a
more cautious approach to justice reinvestment as '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 to emerge'.
CIS was of a similar view, commenting that 'the impact on offending or
recidivism from the reinvestment of these savings into community-based crime
prevention strategies will take a lot longer to emerge, and it is too early to evaluate
their effects, if any'.
A further issue noted is that US states have embraced strategies which
address the punitive nature of the justice system without a corresponding
reinvestment to address the underlying causes of crime in targeted communities.
Strategies aimed at reducing incarceration include changes to probation and
parole policies. Given the large numbers imprisoned in the US, small changes to
criminal justice policy have resulted in significant decreases in incarceration
rates and immediate costs savings.
In addition, custodial sentencing practices in the US meant that there was a large
group of offenders fit for diversion from custody already available in
jurisdictions where justice reinvestment was introduced.
The difficulties of reinvesting those immediate savings for long term
benefits were noted by the Juvenile Justice NSW. It stated:
The same concept of reducing incarceration costs and
're-investing' in diversion services or other services that may reduce future
growth of incarceration, is possible for juveniles. However, as the juvenile
justice system is smaller, there are fewer funds to save and reinvest. As adult
correctional systems represent a much larger proportion of the states' budget,
there is greater incentive and capacity to generate savings.
Another aspect of the justice reinvestment approach noted by Professor
David Brown of the Australia Justice Reinvestment Project was that many of the
strategies in the US that go under the label of justice reinvestment are 'just
basic criminal justice reform'. For example, sentencing reform which tries to
move away or mitigate the effects of mandatory sentence regimes, and changed
parole requirements which aim to improve the high rates of revocation of parole
through provision of more parole and probation officers. Professor Brown
concluded that '[q]uite a number of jurisdictions there have moved to carry out
criminal justice reforms that could have been carried out just under the name
The concentration on 'up-front' savings from changes in corrections has
been criticised as being only a partial implementation of the justice
reinvestment approach. The Victorian Drug and Alcohol Association, for example,
noted that in West Virginia justice reinvestment strategies appear to centre on
working with those populations already at risk of imprisonment and appear to be
lacking in terms of prevention and early intervention initiatives.
Another issue is that even though prisons have been closed down or not
built in some states, the true correctional savings have been difficult to
document and even more problematic to capture. CIS noted comments by US
criminologist Professor Todd Clear who stated that in 'every one of 12
locations where justice reinvestment work has been carried out, the correctional
budgets have continued to grow'. This means that unless funds saved from
reducing incarceration are genuinely redirected, justice reinvestment will
become yet another 'add-on' program.
Flat Out voiced a similar concern, stating that while prisons may have closed
in the US, correctional service budgets have continued to grow. Flat Out
commented that it is critical that policies such as justice reinvestment
address not only the growth of prisons, but of the criminal justice system.
Flat Out concluded 'tinkering at the edges of a system that is failing to reduce
rates of imprisonment or the overrepresentation of marginalised communities cannot
address structural disadvantage'.
Professor Clear also stated that a central problem with current justice
investment strategies has been the tendency for the savings in corrections to
be redirected to other government social services. He commented the while these
services are aimed at reducing failure rates and thus costs, this does not align
with the original aim of justice reinvestment, that is, the rebuilding of
community resources, both human and physical, in areas devastated by high
levels of incarceration.
A further factor pointing to the need for caution was provided through
the recent experience in Kansas. The introduction of Jessica's Law has seen
prison rates in Kansas increase after an initial decrease following the
implementation of a justice reinvestment approach. The NJCEOs commented that
this 'demonstrates the effect that one-off legislative decisions can have on
long term, trend changing justice reinvestment/causes of crime strategies'.
While there is evidence of success with a justice reinvestment approach, it is as
vulnerable to external influences (for example, economic and legislative) as
any other criminal justice approach. The NJCEOs concluded:
The evidence and data which inform justice reinvestment/causes
of crime approaches increase their likelihood of success however, the ability
of these strategies to sustain improvements over time requires a long term
commitment from governments and policy makers.
Similarly, the Women in Prison Advocacy Network noted that some commentators
have questioned whether the positive reforms introduced by justice reinvestment
initiatives would still remain in place in the US, if the US economy were to fully
recover from the effects of the 2008 recession and global financial crisis.
The committee received less evidence on the evaluation of justice
reinvestment in the UK. However, ALHR noted that there has been a more
piecemeal approach in the UK and accurate evaluations of effectiveness are
unavailable because of a lack of funds.
CIS also commented that as justice reinvestment has only recently been adopted
in the UK, it is too early to say whether it is achieving its aims. However, it
was noted that UK criminologists have already commented that justice reinvestment
is being used primarily to provide improved governance of rehabilitation
programs, and that these programs are running in parallel with the continued
growth of the prison system.
Despite some concerns about its implementation, the success of the
justice reinvestment approach in overseas jurisdictions, principally the US, is
clear. However, the committee is conscious that the direct importation of an
approach from the US is problematic and, indeed, may fail if not appropriately
adapted to Australian conditions. The US has a significantly different justice
and corrections system, political landscape and prisoner demographic,
particularly in relation to location.
That being said, the committee considers that there is much that appeals
about the justice reinvestment approach particularly its use of comprehensive
data collection and rigorous analysis to create all-inclusive, cohesive program
options that target the determinants of crime and thereby reduce offending and
spending on prison. As Professor Clear noted, 'given the activity to date,
justice reinvestment is an idea to reckon with'.
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