If Australia's prison population continues to grow at an average rate of 4% per year, across the nation we'll need to add at least 10,000 new beds to the prison estate by 2020 at an estimated cost of over $5 billon. The Greens say let's be smarter with the way we spend this money.
Justice Reinvestment is a new but proven approach to criminal justice spending. The success of Justice Reinvestment in the United States has shown it is possible to have both less crime and fewer people in prison. The Greens want to see Justice Reinvestment adopted here in Australia too.
Justice Reinvestment can:
• Reduce crime & improve public safety;
• Strengthen communities; and
• Save money.
Win, Win, Win.
Justice Reinvestment - What is it?
Rather than spending more and more money warehousing offenders after their crimes have been committed, the focus of Justice Reinvestment is strengthening communities to prevent crime from happening in the first place. This involves a shift in spending away from prisons into communities.
We know that many offenders come from, and return to, a small number of disadvantaged communities. Justice Reinvestment shifts some of the money allocated for future imprisonment costs back into these high-needs communities to fund programs and services which address the underlying causes of crime in these areas. Emphasis is placed on building healthy communities not just rehabilitating or mentoring individual offenders, although this too has its place.
Key characteristics of a Justice Reinvestment Approach
Justice Reinvestment is data driven. Demographic mapping of criminal justice data is used to identify the neighbourhoods that will benefit most from targeted investment in crime prevention initiatives. The services and programs invested in are also subject to rigorous and ongoing evaluation to make sure they actually work to reduce crime.
Justice Reinvestment is place based. The causes of crime are complex and location specific. As such, Justice Reinvestment is not a one size fits all approach. The combination of rigorous data analysis & community input enables the development of practical policies that respond to the needs of, and underlying causes of crime in, particular communities.
Justice Reinvestment is collaborative in that is requires a genuine partnership between government and communities. Communities targeted for justice reinvestment - including victims of crime and families of offenders - must be given a central role in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of local crime prevention initiatives.
What Justice Reinvestment is NOT
Justice Reinvestment is not about getting rid of prisons all together. Prisons will always be needed to protect the community from serious and dangerous offenders. Justice Reinvestment must also not be used as a cover for de--investment in already underfunded prison service and programs. Providing an appropriate level of in-prison treatment, education and vocational training is essential if we are to break the cycle of re-offending that has led to our prisons being described as a revolving door. Nor is it a short-term, one-size-fits-all, top-down approach. It requires multi-partisan support & a collaborative partnership between government and community.
Time for new thinking in Australia
As a community, we need to embrace smart, targeted, evidence-based solutions to crime that will make our communities safer now and into the future. While criminal justice is largely the responsibility of the States and Territories, the Federal Government has a significant role to play in driving reform. The Greens have called on the Federal Government to urgently commit to working with those Australian communities interested in trialling a Justice Reinvestment approach.