NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : #Justicereinvestment offers chance to cut number of Indigenous inmates

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” No matter which way you look at it, Indigenous imprisonment represents a national crisis. New approaches urgently are needed and the promising reports of the Bourke justice reinvestment trial offer a glimmer of hope.

Indigenous Australians represent 2.5 per cent of the population and 27 per cent of prisoners. About half of those behind bars are there for nonviolent offences, including driving offences, property offences and breaches of court orders.

But we know those who have spent significant time in jail have a far greater propensity for violent crime on release.”

Stuart Clark is president of the Law Council of Australia writing in The Australian

Picture above See NACCHO Post

In fact, 80 per cent of those released will return to prison at least once, and usually more than once. In many cases this will be for procedural offences, such as breach of parole. Many people who are in prison are being held on remand. In the case of youths in detention, most are on remand because in many cases no other options are available for at-risk children.

Putting people behind bars at the current rate is an economic and moral disaster.

Morally, the system fails on a number of levels. By the time a young indigenous person is imprisoned, it is usually at the end of a series of incidents or interactions with the justice system that have led to their imprisonment being inevitable.

Most indigenous perpetrators of crime are themselves victims of crime, as youths or as adults. The fastest growing cohort in Australian prisons are indigenous women, who are overwhelmingly victims of domestic violence.

We also know that the vast majority of those imprisoned suffer an intellectual, cognitive or sensory disability.

A system geared primarily towards imprisonment simply perpetuates the downward spiral.

The system also costs many billions of dollars and grows more costly each year.

It includes prisons, law enforcement, legal services, community services, lost tax income and a greater welfare burden (because former inmates cannot find employment). And these are just the costs we can measure.

In NSW, a new prison is being built to accommodate its burgeoning prison population. The Northern Territory opened a super prison in 2014 costing $1.8 billion.

However, politicians and governments need to answer a fundamental question: is the current approach to criminal justice working? All of the existing data suggests that it isn’t.

During the past 10 years, most categories of crime — including violent crime — have trended downwards. However, indigenous imprisonment has continued to rise dramatically.

This is why the significant early strides being made by the Maranguka justice reinvestment pilot project in Bourke offer such hope.

Maranguka is the first major Australian trial of justice reinvestment. First developed in the US, justice reinvestment is a data-driven approach that aims to reduce offending and imprisonment, and reinvest savings into strategies that reduce crime and improve public safety. Justice reinvestment sometimes has been dismissed as a simple push for reduced sentences. This fundamentally misunderstands its objectives.

It is about listening to communities about crime and community problems at the local level, and constructing solutions that deal with those problems at the source.

Those who viewed the ABC’s Four Corners on Monday will have seen many examples in action.

Problem: a significant proportion of the trouble in Bourke stemmed from driving offences — often, driving without a licence.

Reality: it became clear after speaking with members of the community that illegal driving was often the only form of driving familiar to local kids. Indigenous youths in Bourke don’t typically have family members with cars, so driving lessons are impractical.

Solution: reinvest resources to free driving lessons.

Result: today the number of people jailed for driving offences in Bourke is the lowest in a decade. This approach is simple, effective and much, much less costly.

Another Bourke example is the allocation of police resources to follow-up visits with the perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse. A day or two after a domestic violence call-out, a local officer is dispatched to check in.

In the three months police have been following this procedure there has not been a single case of domestic reoffending.

While our instinctive reaction to crime is to punish criminals, we need to consider whether society’s interests are best served by feeding an endless cycle of imprisonment and reoffending. Fortunately, there is evidence governments are starting to listen. Brad Hazzard MP, the former NSW attorney-general, has thrown his personal support behind the justice reinvestment trial in Bourke.

Malcolm Turnbull has said juvenile detention will be on the agenda at the next meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, which creates an excellent opportunity for the heads of government to establish a national strategy to address imprisonment.

The commonwealth can show its immediate commitment to these initiatives by reversing cuts to indigenous legal services slated for July next year.

Stuart Clark is president of the Law Council of Australia.

NACCHO #justreinvestment from Tom Calma : Reinvesting in a smarter approach to youth justice

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” Our corrections systems are at a crisis point and a smarter ­approach urgently is needed ­nationally.

The overall prison population and over-representation of Aboriginal people in our prisons are increasing, while recently released statistics show that property and violent crime rates are falling. Something isn’t working.

Next Monday, the ABC’s Four Corners program will report the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke in northwest NSW.

This is the first major justice reinvestment project in Australia and aims to provide a demonstration of how justice reinvestment can work here.

The time has come for a smarter approach. We need a dedicated focus on reducing incarceration from all levels of government, and done so in real partnership with communities. The time has come for a roll out of Justice Reinvestment initiatives across Australia.”

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Tom Calma is chancellor of the University of Canberra; a champion of independent non-profit group Just Reinvest NSW and chief investigator for a justice reinvestment initiative in Cowra, NSW.

Writing in the Australian

Meanwhile, more and more taxpayer money is being poured into building new prisons. The NSW government, for example, has just announced plans to spend $3.8 billion on new prison beds across the next four years. This money could be better invested elsewhere — in early intervention and the prevention of crime. The outlook is particularly stark for Aboriginal young people.

The imprisonment rate for Aboriginal Australians has increased by an alarming 52 per cent in a decade, and more than half (59 per cent) of the young people in jail are Aboriginal, despite making up only 5 per cent of the population aged 10 to 17.

The latest figures show about $409 million is spent each year detaining young people in Australia.

This translates to more than $440,000 a year for each young person in detention on an average day.

We simply cannot afford to keep doing what we’re doing. The social and economic costs are too high. We need to come together and find a better way to address the problem — not just build more prisons. This “better way” is justice reinvestment, and I have been championing it since 2009.

Justice reinvestment is a smarter, data-driven approach to justice that finds alternative pathways for potential offenders and builds stronger communities by redirecting money that would be spent on prisons into community services and support.

It is tough on crime by preventing it from happening in the first place, and that is what ultimately reduces the number of victims of crime and builds safer communities.

The beauty of justice reinvestment is that it doesn’t require additional funding; it is just a more efficient and smarter use of money already allocated to corrections. It also ensures the community is involved and committed to taking ownership not only of the problem but also of the solutions.

Importantly, it has been proven to work. In the US, there are 30 justice reinvestment initiatives at the state level and another 18 at the county level that are reducing offending and saving taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.

Next Monday, the ABC’s Four Corners program will report the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke in northwest NSW. This is the first major justice reinvestment project in Australia and aims to provide a demonstration of how justice reinvestment can work here.

I visited Bourke a year ago and was impressed. What I saw had the potential to be replicated ­nationally and it was not complicated.

Simply, it was about the community working together to address a challenge that affects us all. Under the stewardship of Aboriginal leader Alistair Ferguson, and with the support of Just Reinvest NSW, key agencies on the ground, such as schools, police and health services, look at data and work with the Aboriginal community to identify what is causing people to commit crimes, be they minor or major.

In Bourke, some of the issues included too many young children with developmental problems, high rates of suspension from school, high levels of youth unemployment and the lack of a driver licensing program.

They then devise interventions to address these issues. Paramount among them are appropriate education and health services and employment preparation and job creation. It was early days, but the key to their success is leadership, vision, empowerment, ­inclusion, respect and goodwill.

Across the next three years, economic modelling will demonstrate the savings from the initiatives identified by the community, and the case then will be put to government that long-term investment in justice reinvestment can reduce prison populations, save money and build stronger communities.

The time has come for a smarter approach. We need a dedicated focus on reducing incarceration from all levels of government, and done so in real partnership with communities. The time has come for a roll out of Justice Reinvestment initiatives across Australia.

 

NACCHO health news:STOP overrepresentation:Justice reinvestment – all Governments must commit to action

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 National Congress Co-Chair Jody Broun pictured above

Justice Reinvestment presents a unique opportunity to have Aboriginal communities involved at every step of the way in identifying and implementing solutions to deal with overrepresentation within our own communities,”

Congress has called for all Australian governments to commit to Justice Reinvestment to stop the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the justice system.

READ and DOWNLOAD the full National Congress submission here

 Congress will tell a Senate Inquiry today that the strength of Justice Reinvestment is its localised approach to fit the needs and situation of each community.

 “Justice Reinvestment presents a unique opportunity to have Aboriginal communities involved at every step of the way in identifying and implementing solutions to deal with overrepresentation within our own communities,” said Congress Co-Chair Jody Broun.

 “The local approach of Justice Reinvestment would be strengthened by the national implementation of Closing the Gap justice targets that Congress has previously called for – to halve the rates of incarceration for our Peoples and to halve the rate at which our Peoples report having experienced physical or threatened violence within the past 12 months,” she said.

 Co-Chair Les Malezer said the Congress submission to the inquiry also details how Justice Reinvestment addresses both the cause and effect of Aboriginal peoples’ interaction with the justice system.

 “It does not mean reduced police intervention and protection for victims of crime but using resources in a more efficient manner, which is crucial when it comes to dealing with violence against Aboriginal women and children.

 “Top down approaches have never been successful or been owned by communities, solutions that make the most of the strengths and knowledge within our communities have a much greater chance of success,” he said.

 Congress Director and Justice Working Group Convenor, Tammy Solonec will present the Congress submission to the Senate Inquiry into the value of justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia in Perth today.

 Ms Solonec said the four key points of Congress’s submission are backed by Congress members and delegates through the Justice Working group.

 “The Congress submission calls for a commitment to Justice Reinvestment by the Federal and all State and Territory Governments; the establishment of a national approach to data collection on justice indicators; and for funding and operational support for analysis and implementation of community-led Justice Reinvestment programs in targeted communities,” she said.

Read the full Congress submission here: nationalcongress.com.au/justice

Contact: Liz Willis 0457 877 408

http://nationalcongress.com.au/justice-reinvestment-all-governments-must-commit-to-action/

Liz Willis

Communications