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Inquiry calls for end to lock-up culture

Media Release
Penny Wright 20 Jun 2013

Significant failures in the prison system demand a new approach to crime and justice in Australia, according to the findings of a Senate Committee initiated by Australian Greens spokesperson for legal affairs Senator Penny Wright.

Senator Wright said high rates of indigenous incarceration were particularly significant in the committee's recommendation to promote a justice reinvestment approach in Australia.

"This inquiry has found prisons are ineffective and 'essentially a failed institution', which should only be used as a last resort and for serious offenders," Senator Wright said.

"Justice Reinvestment is about shifting money away from prisons into vulnerable communities to address underlying causes of crime.

"The number of Australians in prison is growing four times faster than our population - prisons now cost more than $3 billion a year in operating expenses alone.

"Yet this has not made our communities safer at all. More than 40 per cent of the people who enter prison re-offend within two years of release.

"Australia's culture of incarceration has gone too far. In fact, an Indigenous person is more likely to be returned to prison than they are to be retained at either high school or university.

"My committee has today recommended that Federal Government take a leadership role in advocating a justice reinvestment approach across state and territory governments and establishing an independent central body to provide support and research.

"We have also recommended the Federal Government fund trials of justice reinvestment in high-risk communities."

Justice Reinvestment is a community-focused, evidenced-based approach that provides savings, diverts offenders, addresses the causes of crime, and strengthens communities. It originated in the United States where it has significant success and bipartisan support because of the significant economic savings that come from a 'front end' approach.

The full report of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee can be found here. Chapter 8 provides an overall summary of the issue and the committee's view.

 

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