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Justice Reinvestment Needs a National Approach

Just Reinvest NSW today called for the Federal Government to lead a national response through a justice reinvestment framework to the rates of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The call came following the Federal Government’s response to the release of the Senate Committee report The Value of a Justice Reinvestment Approach to Criminal Justice in Australia.

Just Reinvest Chairperson Sarah Hopkins said “The release of the report was an opportunity for the Federal Government to demonstrate how it will lead and work together with States and Territories to do something about the national crisis of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration, but it fell short.”

“We want to see a clear framework for cooperation between all tiers of government that goes beyond encouragement and undefined support from the Federal Government for the States and Territories to real action.”

“Justice reinvestment extends into many areas that the Federal Government has direct responsibility over. It should be activating all levers at its disposal to progress the much needed change in approach to address the crisis,” she said.

“There is nothing to stop the Federal Government from working with the States and Territories on criminal justice related initiatives; in fact it is critical.”

The recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee provided practical ways for the Commonwealth to provide national leadership on justice reinvestment. This included the establishment of an independent central coordinating body to provide technical advice on implementing justice reinvestment, to work with states to develop policy options to reduce levels of incarceration, and to monitor and evaluate programs and savings and the reinvestment of savings in communities.

“As a touch point for inquiries about justice reinvestment from communities, organisations and governments right across Australia, we can see what is needed,” says Sarah Hopkins.

“A central coordinating body for justice reinvestment and a national database of evidence based initiatives to support local communities to reduce crime and create safer communities is a starting point for Federal Government action, but we need a whole of COAG shift, led by the Federal Government, including working together on justice reinvestment and introducing justice targets to drive action,” she said.

Just Reinvest NSW acknowledges the important contributions of the Australian Institute of Criminology, the Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse and the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), however these bodies do not fulfil the role of the national coordinating body as Senator Scullion suggested in his response to the recommendations.

Just Reinvest NSW welcomes the Federal Government’s in-principle support for the Commonwealth taking a leading role in identifying the requisite data and establishing a national approach to data collection and data sharing. This in-principle support must now be partnered with practical measures for implementation.

The overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a complex and urgent issue and should be addressed at the local, state and national level. There is a need to provide communities with the specific technical assistance required to implement evidence-based strategies through data-driven and place-based justice reinvestment initiatives, like the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke.

19 October 2017

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