Time to invest in communities, not prisons

MEDIA RELEASE - 20.09.16

The Change the Record (CTR) Coalition has today called on all levels of government to start thinking differently about crime prevention, and shift investment away from prisons and into communities.

Last night’s episode of ABC Four Corners featured the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke. This is the first major trial of justice reinvestment in Australia - an approach first developed in the United States which seeks to reduce imprisonment rates, whilst saving money and creating safer communities.

CTR Co-Chair Shane Duffy said, “It’s long past time that we took a smarter approach to justice in this country. The current punitive approach is just sticking band-aids over the problems – what we really need is long-term investment into early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies.”

“The Bourke example highlights the positive change that can be made when we recognise that local communities have the answers, and start investing in programmes that are evidence-based, localised and have the support of the community.”

Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are 24 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous youth. Underlying socio-economic disadvantage such as poverty, low education levels, drug and alcohol abuse, and disability are key drivers of imprisonment levels and high rates of violence experienced.

Co-Chair Antoinette Braybrook said, “We need to stop throwing money at prisons, and instead invest those funds into services, such as education, health, disability, housing, employment and other programs, that tackle the root causes and build safe and healthy communities. Justice Reinvestment provides a framework through which to do this”.

Prime Minister Turnbull recently announced that Juvenile Detention will be on the agenda at the next COAG meeting. This presents all levels of government with a critical opportunity to work together to tackle the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, and create safer communities for us all.

“This must be more than an expression of concern, or a one off–funding commitment. There are no quick fixes here. What we need is sustained commitment of targeted place-based investment into our communities” said Ms Braybrook.

In the lead-up to the next COAG meeting, the CTR Coalition is calling on levels of government to:

  • Prioritise  the investment of resources into services and programmes that strengthen communities and address the underlying causes of crime;
  • Work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, their organisations and their representative bodies to support the identification and development of placed-based justice reinvestment sites;
  • Establish a national data body on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family violence and imprisonment rates, to ensure a consistent national approach to data collection to inform policy development.
  • Set national justice targets to monitor and track progress against; and
  • Establish a national, holistic and whole-of-government strategy to address imprisonment and violence rates.

- ENDS –

Media Contact:  Shannon Longhurst for Shane Duffy and Antoinette Braybrook
ph: 0409 711 061 / e: shannon@changetherecord.org.au