The NSW Government’s plan to invest $3.8 billion in prisons over the next four years is a bad investment according to Just Reinvest NSW, an independent organisation advocating for the adoption of a justice reinvestment policy.
“While we acknowledge that the NSW Government has an obligation to ensure prisoners are securely and appropriately incarcerated, we also believe that taxpayers deserve a much better return on this sort of investment” said Sarah Hopkins, Chair of Just Reinvest NSW.
“As the NSW Law Society highlighted last week, there is no evidence, anywhere in the world, to demonstrate that tougher sentences and increased prison populations increase protection for our communities. So why are we making an investment of this size if the primary goal is to increase community safety?”
“There is also little evidence that prison has a deterrent effect for most offences. In the case of domestic violence offenders for example, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released a report earlier this month demonstrating that prison alone does little to deter domestic violence perpetrators from re-offending and recommending that we need to look at options which address the causes of this offending” said Ms Hopkins.
On Thursday, NSW Corrections Minister David Elliot told reporters that the $3.8 billion “is not money the state government is happy to spend” and that his “strong preference would always be that taxpayers money is spent on schools and hospitals”.
“If the NSW Government believes it is preferable to spend taxpayers dollars on health and education, then we urge the NSW Government to exercise strong leadership on this issue as a matter of urgency” said Sarah Hopkins. “It is not a situation beyond their control. Experts, including the head of their own Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, have put forward recommendations for policy and legislative reforms that can effectively reduce prison populations without decreasing community safety.”
It has been reported that a proportion of the $3.8 billion will be allocated to rehabilitation programs within prisons to “help meet the Government’s target to reduce adult reoffending by five percent by 2016”.
“While we strongly support investment into rehabilitation programs to reduce reoffending, we are hesitant to welcome the announcement given there is currently no detail on these programs” said Sarah Hopkins, Chair of Just Reinvest NSW.
Just Reinvest NSW is working to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the criminal justice and prison system in NSW through justice reinvestment.
“In contrast to our current ‘tough on crime approach’ in Australia, justice reinvestment is about building safer communities” explained Sarah Hopkins.
Justice reinvestment aims to address the underlying causes of crime and improve the lives of both individuals and communities. It uses data to identify communities with a high concentration of offenders and assess the particular problems facing those communities. The redirection of funds into early intervention, crime prevention and diversionary programs creates savings in the criminal justice system that can be tracked and reinvested. When implemented properly, justice reinvestment has the ability to reduce crime, offer positive opportunities to young people and save money.
Justice reinvestment provides communities with the power and resources to support people tackling challenging circumstances through long-term measures tailored to their local needs. In effect, it addresses the underlying drivers of many crimes.
“We recognise that politicians want to ensure the public feel safer under their leadership. However we believe that the Australian public is becoming increasingly aware of the failure and expense of prisons. Now is the time for the NSW Government to change their approach – from ‘tough on crime’ to ‘smart on crime’.”
Just Reinvest NSW is currently working with the community of Bourke to trial a community-driven collaborative approach to justice reinvestment.
20 June 2016