We’re calling for the adoption of justice reinvestment to reduce the number of Aboriginal people in NSW prisons.
We cannot afford to lose another generation of Aboriginal children to the criminal justice system.
The time is right for the NSW government to significantly shift policy and spending away from incarceration towards prevention, early intervention and treatment for Aboriginal children at risk. The time is right for the NSW government to implement justice reinvestment – because it just makes sense.
A Justice Reinvestment approach would see a place-based, community-led and data-driven focus on getting support into communities early before problems arise. This would combat the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Specifically, we’re calling for:
1. A commitment to working differently on building safer communities through the implementation of justice reinvestment.
2. A multi-partisan approach to developing and implementing a justice reinvestment plan for NSW.
Such work is supported by the 2018 Australian Law Reform Commission Report Pathways to Justice – Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. This report recommends the redirection of resources away from prisons to the root causes of offending – consistent with a Justice Reinvestment approach.
Justice Reinvestment is Needed in NSW
Australia’s recent history of ‘lock them up’ law and order policies has resulted in record high prison populations at a cost of $3.7 billion a year.
NSW has the largest adult prisoner population, accounting for 33% of the total Australian adult population. In the five years leading up to 2017, NSW’s prison population grew by 33% and currently stands at 12,989. Most people in prison have been there before, which is one of the reasons imprisonment rates are sky-rocketing.
Particularly affected are Aboriginal people who are over-represented at every stage of the criminal justice system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up only 3% of the total population. Yet indigenous people account for one in three women, and one in four men, inside NSW prisons. Aboriginal women are also likely to have been victims of crime themselves.
In NSW, approximately 45% of the children in prison are Aboriginal.
In fact, Aboriginal young people are 24 times more likely to be placed in juvenile prison that non-Aboriginal young people.
In NSW, reoffending is a big problem, with reconviction rates within two years over 70% for Aboriginal children.
The cost of locking up one child in a NSW prison is $1,343.78 per day. This means that NSW taxpayers currently spend over $490,800 each year on every child incarcerated, and costs are increasing. Just Reinvest NSW believes locking up children is government money poorly spent.
Just Reinvest NSW is calling on the NSW government to implement justice reinvestment as a matter of urgency.
We cannot afford to continue down this path. There is a better way to invest our resources.
Given the enormous costs of incarceration – social, health and economic – it is clear that a new way of thinking is required to address the poor outcomes from the present system for everyone involved; and in particular to address the unacceptable over-representation of Aboriginal children in our prisons.
Aboriginal leaders and communities support a justice reinvestment approach to reduce the number of Aboriginal children in our prisons and make communities safer.
A long-term, whole of government justice reinvestment approach can address the disproportionate number of Aboriginal young people being caught in a system that fails to rehabilitate, fails to deter and fails to keep communities safer.
Justice reinvestment focuses on why crime is occurring in the first place. When young people offend, there are often other issues at play such as homelessness, child protection, disability, high-risk drug and alcohol use, violence, poverty and a lack of appropriate services.
Justice reinvestment reduces crime, reduces costs and creates better futures, benefiting the entire community.
NSW is in a unique position.
We are the home state for two pilot sites for justice reinvestment, in Bourke and Cowra. These sites offer the learning and experience essential for the NSW government to embrace a justice reinvestment approach.
NSW has an opportunity to take the lead in Australia in redirecting spending away from imprisonment and towards early intervention, prevention, and diversion in a fiscally and socially responsible way.