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Federal Government must lead new approach to tackle Aboriginal incarceration

The Australian Greens say the release of an Amnesty International report into Indigenous incarceration should restart a national conversation about Justice Reinvestment as an alternative to "lock 'em up" prison culture.

Australian Greens spokesperson for legal affairs Senator Penny Wright, who chaired a 2013 inquiry into Justice Reinvestment, said some of the momentum for Federal action had been lost after the election of the Abbott Government.

"At that time, we had cross-party agreement that prisons were essentially a failed institution, which should only be used as a last resort," Senator Wright said.

"Australia's culture of incarceration has gone too far and it hasn't made our communities any safer. What we need is an approach like Justice Reinvestment, which shifts money away from prisons into vulnerable communities to address underlying causes of crime.

"Today's report from Amnesty International shows the clear need for national leadership and I am calling on the Abbott Government to get serious about Aboriginal incarceration rates and look at justice reinvestment as an alternative."

Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues  Rachel Siewert said the report by Amnesty International represents another example of the Government failing miserably to Close the Gap.

"Once again we have learnt that both State and Federal Governments have let down Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples when it comes to Closing the Gap, particularly around Aboriginal incarceration rates," she said.

"Australian Governments must do more to address the appallingly high rates of Aboriginal incarceration, we will not close the gap until these rates are addressed. We need justice targets as part of the Close the Gap targets. 

"I urge the Government to address this issue seriously and move to genuinely offer proper solutions."  

Justice Reinvestment is a community-focused, evidenced-based approach that provides savings, diverts offenders, addresses the causes of crime, and strengthens communities. The full report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee into the value of a justice reinvestment approach can be found here.

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