The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke, which featured on the latest edition of Four Corners, is already making progress in the community, and is demonstrating how justice reinvestment approaches can reduce prison populations, save money and build stronger communities.
Sarah Hopkins, Chair of Just Reinvest NSW and Managing Solicitor, Justice Projects at the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT says: “We cannot afford to keep doing what we’re doing. The social and economic costs are too high. A smarter approach is urgently needed – and that is what justice reinvestment provides.”
Since 2013, Just Reinvest NSW has been working in partnership with the Bourke community to develop a justice reinvestment framework. The Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project is the first major justice reinvestment project in Australia.
“What is different about what is happening in Bourke is that decisions about what needs to happen aren’t being made in Sydney or in regional offices. They are being made on the ground in Bourke. Community leaders have made decisions about what needs to happen, informed by data and research, and most importantly, broad community input.,” Hopkins says.
- The overall prison population, and the rate of over-representation of Aboriginal young people in our prisons are both rising, yet property and violent crime rates are going down. Something isn’t working.
- In NSW, over half the children in jail are Aboriginal. This costs $800 per child per day. In 2014 NSW taxpayers spent an average of $293,200 on each child in custody.
- The NSW Government has just announced plans to spend $3.8 billion on new prison beds over the next four years. This money could be better spent elsewhere.
Justice reinvestment recognises that there is a strong correlation between areas of disadvantage and high rates of young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system. It is a smarter approach to justice that builds stronger communities by redirecting money that would be spent on prisons into community services and supports. It is about addressing the underlying causes of crime and preventing it from happening in the first place.
“We are in the early stages, and there isn’t a magic wand, but there is a shift. We are seeing optimism, and a real sense of momentum. I encourage people to watch Four Corners online, share this story with their networks and get behind this important initiative. We need to spread the word about justice reinvestment and demand meaningful change,” Hopkins says.
Prof. Tom Calma AO, a supporter of the Bourke project and a Champion of Just Reinvest NSW says: “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 that the community is involved and committed to not only taking ownership of the problem, but also ownership of the solutions. Importantly, it has been proven to work.”
“The time has come for a smarter approach. We need a dedicated focus on reducing incarceration, including addressing social and cultural determinants of 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,” Prof. Calma says.
Just Reinvest NSW is calling on the NSW Government to develop and implement a justice reinvestment policy. In particular, we are calling for the NSW Government to:
- investigate how current prison numbers can be reduced,
- redirect a portion of the $3.8 billion earmarked for prisons over the next four years into community-based justice reinvestment solutions, and
- assess how justice reinvestment can be adopted as an alternative to spending more on prisons in NSW.
You can watch the Four Corners program on the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project here: www.abc.net.au/4corners.
Media contact: Nicole Mekler, Coordinator Just Reinvest NSW, 0412 483 170, firstname.lastname@example.org