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

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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 Aboriginal Health #JusticeReinvestment : Innovative award winning program ” steering ” healthy change in Aboriginal communities

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“The program was set up by the Northern Territory (NT) Government in 2012 across 23 remote communities to address the barriers that prevent Aboriginal people living in remote communities from accessing the licensing system.
 
“In the NT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 84 per cent of the prison population.

Driving and vehicle regulatory offences account for a quarter of the entire population being in jail.

Northern Territory Indigenous Road Safety Program takes out Premier Australasian Road Safety Award

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 “A program to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to obtain their drivers licence can help reduce incarceration and injury rates and improve the health of communities, a new report has found.

Researchers at The George Institute for Global Health analysed DriveSafe NT Remote, which as of July 2016, has seen more than 4,000 people gain a learner or provisional licence.

Over the past year alone the service delivery footprint increased from 42 remote communities to 74 remote and dispersed communities receiving driver education and licensing services.”

The findings were presented  (Sept 8) at the 2016 Australasian Road Safety Conference (ARSC) in Canberra.

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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.

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

Over a two year period, DriveSafe workers aided with the process of applying for licences, taking theory tests and providing driving lessons. It led to a 24 per cent increase in the amount of people having a learner licence in the regions taking part.

The findings were presented  (Sept 8) at the 2016 Australasian Road Safety Conference (ARSC) in Canberra.

Lead investigator Rebecca Ivers said: “There are multiple barriers to licensing that this program has successfully overcome in partnership with remote communities all over the NT. Having a driver licence opens the door to better opportunities for education and employment as well as reduced road deaths.”

Professor Ivers, of The George Institute for Global Health, added that current low rates of licensing was contributing to the high numbers of Aboriginal people in prison.

Professor Ivers said: “There is a huge need for programs like this all over Australia. Having a licence can be transformative. It can help with getting an education, holding down a job, and accessing healthcare.

“But licensing offences and other driving offences also contribute to high rates of incarceration for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people in the NT. DriveSafe NT Remote therefore has the potential to deliver real and lasting change in communities across the NT and reduce the amount of people in our prisons.”

Wayne Buckley, manager of DriveSafe NT Remote said: “DriveSafe NT Remote’s approach to a flexible service delivery model is working in partnership with locally based third parties. We develop innovative and unique educational resources to address environmental and cultural attributes that might impact on Indigenous learning styles, particularly for those with low levels of English literacy this underpins the sustainability of the program.

Visit the DriveSafe NT Remote website.

Northern Territory Indigenous Road Safety Program takes out Premier Australasian Road Safety Award

A program to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to obtain their drivers licence has taken out Australasia’s premier road safety award recognising exemplary innovation and effectiveness to save lives and injuries on roads. The DriveSafe NT Remote project, led by Team Leader Wayne Buckley, is being delivered by the Northern Territory Government to expedite road trauma reductions among indigenous communities.

The award was presented by the Hon Darren Chester MP, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Mr Lauchlan McIntosh AM, President of the Australasian College of Road Safety, and Mr Cade Turner representing 3M Australasia.  The award ceremony was attended by over 550 of Australasia’s foremost road safety professionals and advocates last night at Australia’s Parliament House.

Minister Chester congratulated this year’s award winners on their contribution to improving driver safety around the nation.  “This year’s winners and finalists are doing an incredible job of reducing the national road toll and deserve our sincere congratulations on the valuable work they are doing every day,” Mr Chester said.

“There are many elements which must be brought together if we are to achieve a reduction in our national road toll – everything from new vehicle technology and improved driver education and skills, through to better road design and more investment in our infrastructure.

“Each of this year’s finalists and winners demonstrate the personal commitment we so badly need to help bring down the rate of death and injury happening on our roads every year. Their contribution is valuable – and above all – valued.”

ACRS President, Mr Lauchlan McIntosh AM, said “Our 2016 winner, represented by Wayne Buckley from the Northern Territory Government, demonstrates an effective and innovative approach to a complex issue – in this specific case road trauma reduction among our indigenous communities.

“DriveSafe NT Remote is a fresh policy perspective on driver education. The program provides an innovative and sustainable solution to the complex, multi-causal and interdependent barriers to getting a driver licence in the bush.

“Since the inception of the program in 2012, the small team of five dedicated officers from the Department of Transport has delivered 3433 learner licences, 1086 provisional licences, 1164 birth certificates and 2103 driving lessons.

Over the past year alone the service delivery footprint increased from 42 remote communities to 74 remote and dispersed communities receiving driver education and licensing services.

Judges considered the specific features of the many projects submitted, particularly in terms of innovation in thinking and technology, problem-solving as well as the real benefits in reducing trauma. Cost-effectiveness and transferability to other areas were other key criteria.

Finalists for this hotly-contested award came from many areas.