Justice reinvestment doesn’t just make financial sense, it makes social sense.
Sarah Hopkins is a lawyer at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern and the spokesperson for the group Just Reinvest NSW.
From the ABC: SARAH HOPKINS: What we are all sick and tired of is programs that might be doing a good thing but they get cut in the political cycle, funding cycle, and the organisations are spending half their time preparing grants for the next funding applications.
What we need is a system where if an organisation is accountable, transparent and you can see that the organisation has strong outcomes and is effective in the results that its achieving then it will be funded to continue to provide those services because you’ll be able to estimate the savings that that program is realising for government in terms of keeping young people out of the criminal justice system and out of prison.
You know, the cost of keeping a young person in juvenile detention is something like $650 a day so we’re talking around $240,000 a year.
Now think what you could do in a community with a young person – education, rehabilitative services, looking at what’s happening in the home, training.
So it doesn’t just make financial sense of course, it makes social sense.
LINDY KERIN (Reporter): Just Reinvest NSW has set pilot programs in the two communities of Bourke and Cowra.
Sarah Hopkins says after detailed analysis of offending rates, some practical measures are now being considered, like an amnesty clinic for outstanding warrants and other measures for offenders who’ve breached bail conditions.
SARAH HOPKINS: Bourke for instance has the highest breach of bail rate in the state so that means that a lot of young people in Bourke are incarcerated not because they’ve had matters finalised and they’ve been sentenced but because they’ve breached a bail condition and that could be not being home at 6 o’clock at night and getting home at 6.30, that sort of stuff.
So we’re looking at ways that we can reduce that breach rate and arrest for breach of bail. You know, can police you know, start introducing a warning system where you might get three warnings or something like that before your bail is breached.
LINDY KERIN: Alistair Ferguson is leading the pilot program in Bourke.
ALISTAIR FERGUSON: Unfortunately a lot of our youth, they have fines with no means of paying those fines so we’re looking at work development orders to allow people to work off their fines.
Now how that works, you know, it’s $30 an hour if you just participating in an activity but if you’re attending counselling or training or et cetera, it’s $50 an hour so it’s making those linkages between the incentives as well.
LINDY KERIN: The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner Mick Gooda is a supporter of justice reinvestment.
He says the massive over-representation of Indigenous people in the country’s justice system suggests a new approach is needed.
MICK GOODA: We look at the royal commission into aboriginal deaths in custody and its focus was more Aboriginal people die in jail because there’s more people going to jail so the focus of that report was to reduce incarceration.
The incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is probably twice as much as it was when that report was handed down.
So everything we’ve done in the last 22 years has been an abject failure. We’ve actually got to try something new.