Greens say books not bars for Territory youth

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The NT Government has prioritised incarceration over education by rejecting the Gonski school reforms while pouring money into the bottomless pit of jail funding, say the Australian Greens.

Australian Greens spokesperson on Education and Legal Affairs Senator Penny Wright said low levels of literacy and numeracy among jailed youth showed this was the wrong approach.

"Chief Minister Adam Giles says the NT can't scrape together $106 million over six years for a better future for Northern Territory kids," Senator Wright said.

"But he has been able to find half a billion dollars for a new prison which will be overcrowded from the day it opens. Funding jails is a bottomless pit unless you take steps to change the reasons people end up there.

"$106 million also happens to be exactly the net operating expenditure and capital costs of running the Northern Territory's jails for one year.

"So I say to Mr Giles if he wants to find a cost-saving measure, have another look at the Gonski reforms.

"Giving students a great education will significantly decrease their chance of ending up in the justice system as they grow up."

Senator Wright said Northern Territory schools would greatly benefit from extra student loadings for indigenous children and those in rural and remote areas under the Gonski package offered by the Federal government.

"Less than half of Indigenous primary school students are achieving national minimum reading standards," Senator Wright said.

"It makes no sense for the Northern Territory government to pass up the chance of $300 million from the Federal government to improve schools, just to pour more money down the drain in failed law'n'order policies.  It’s far better to educate than incarcerate."

Senator Wright will tomorrow speak at the NTCOSS conference on the value of a justice reinvestment approach, which advocates re-directing money from prisons to preventative measures, like education.

Justice Reinvestment has been backed by NT Chief Magistrate Hilary Hannam and several Northern Territory legal groups. You can read more about justice reinvestment here<http://penny-wright.greensmps.org.au/justice-reinvestment>.