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Clever economic modelling may tip Government’s thinking

Backed by Adam Goodes, Mick Gooda, Michael Kirby, Tom Calma, Mick Dodson, Malcolm Fraser, Marie Bashir, Nicholas Cowdery, and other prominent identities and organisations, the Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People campaign is addressing the shameful over-representation of Aboriginal young people in custody.

It costs over $652 per day (or $237,980 annually) to imprison one young person.

Justice Reinvestment Campaign Champions Mick Gooda, Tom Calma, and Marcia Ella-Duncan are having a LANDMARK MEETING with the NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith SC MP and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Victor Dominello MP on Wednesday 17 October (tomorrow) to present the NSW Government with a revolutionary new policy approach to Aboriginal overrepresentation in youth incarceration.

Mick Gooda, Social Justice Commissioner for the Human Rights Commission, is co-presenting the Justice Reinvestment policy position to Government tomorrow. He says Justice Reinvestment is about taking dollars out of prisons and putting them back into communities. “When implemented, justice reinvestment programs benefit entire communities, not just Aboriginal young people.”

“What is required is a whole of government approach that ensures justice and human service agencies work toward that same goal. This can be accomplished by adopting a policy of Justice Reinvestment,” says Mr Gooda.

Justice Reinvestment is about diverting funds away from prison into programs to address the causes of crime in communities.

Tom Calma, the ‘grandfather of Justice Reinvestment’ as the first to champion the concept in Australia, is copresenting the Justice Reinvestment policy position to Government. He says the best way to deal with crime is to prevent it.

“Justice Reinvestment involves smarter spending not increasing spending,” says Mr Calma. “This means shifting spending away from detention to prevention.”

There are currently a number of NSW government initiatives relating to young people – including the Connected Communities strategy. Co-presenter Marcia Ella-Duncan, Chairperson of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Lands Council, says these are positive developments.

“In this context we have an opportunity to change the story of how corrections and the criminal justice system work in NSW,” says Ms Ella-Duncan. “By implementing a policy and framework of Justice Reinvestment, we can increase community safety while decreasing the costs to government of incarcerating people at the rate we’re currently doing.”

Sarah Hopkins, one of the initiators of the Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign and a senior solicitor with Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), is also meeting with the Ministers on Wednesday. She says it has been difficult as a lawyer to watch adults and then their children facing the same problems and ending up in prison.

“It sets them up for a life inside and does nothing to break the cycle. Why do we need Justice Reinvestment in NSW? If this overrepresentation is not addressed, NSW will lose an entire generation of Aboriginal Australians.”

Justice Reinvestment is a good investment, both socially and economically .

The Justice Reinvestment policy presentation was methodically developed by a team of policy experts, academics, and practice technicians using an evidence base from overseas and in Australia. It reviews overseas experiences where there is demonstrably massive decreases in incarceration rates and costs in communities. It then models the application of Justice Reinvestment within a hypothetical NSW community to demonstrate social and economic benefits.

“We think the economic modelling is the educative instrument we need to help tip this argument,” says Mr Gooda.

“At a fraction of the cost of putting one young person inside, a Justice Reinvestment framework holds that the same young person could be provided with access to mental health services, case workers, youth development programs, employment and training programs, or with rehabilitation programs in local communities.”

The Campaign team is asking the NSW Government to commit to trailing and evaluating justice reinvestment in an agreed number of metropolitan and regional communities.

“The population of Aboriginal young people in detention is an alarming 50%, while Aboriginal people in NSW make up just 2.2% of the total population.

“The trend is a continual increase in admissions and in terms of Aboriginal over-representation there is a real risk of the situation getting worse, and costs continually increasing.

“A framework of Justice Reinvestment for NSW will have exponential benefits not just on the bottom dollar, but also on community safety.”

How a justice reinvestment model works

A justice reinvestment model is a strategically coordinated approach which is supported by a legislative framework and an overseeing body to ensure justice and human service agencies work toward the same goal – reducing the number of young people in custody to generate savings.

Justice reinvestment represents a strategy that co-ordinates evidence based intervention specifically aligning outcomes with reducing the risk of offending/re-offending and the demand for custodial services.

A justice reinvestment model diverts a portion of the funds spent on incarceration to local Aboriginal communities where there is a high concentration of young offenders. The money that would have been spent on custodial services is reinvested into education, programs and services that address the underlying causes of crime in these communities. To the extent that savings are made in policing and the court system, those savings can also be reinvested.

The model is based on evidence that a large number of young offenders often come from a relatively small number of disadvantaged communities. Demographic mapping can be used to determine the regions that will benefit the most from investment in early intervention and prevention programs. Demographic mapping determine which suburbs and streets have the highest need for intervention services.

The justice reinvestment strategy is one that seeks to better manage the growth of a state’s custodial population and increase public safety. Funds reinvested into the identified communities may be used to redevelop abandoned housing and better coordinate such services as substance abuse and mental health treatment and support, social and emotional wellbeing promotion activities, supported housing, transition to employment, and continuing education. Priorities and needs should be identified in consultation with the community. Investment in these services would benefit everyone in the community, regardless of their involvement in the criminal justice system.

The Justice Reinvestment for Aboriginal Young People Campaign
Campaign Champions include:

  • Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO Governor of New South Wales
  • Mr Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Dr. Tom Calma AO, National Coordinator, Tackling Aboriginal Smoking
  • Mr. Bob Debus AM
  • Prof. Mick Dodson AM, Director of the National Centre of Aboriginal Studies at the Australian National University, and 2009 Australian of the Year
  • The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG
  • Ms Marcia Ella Duncan, Chairperson of the La Perouse Local Aboriginal Lands Council
  • The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser AC CH GCL PC, Former Prime Minister
  • Professor Chris Cunneen, The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, former Chairperson of the NSW Juvenile Justice Advisory Council (2000-2007)
  • Mr. Jack Manning-Bancroft, CEO of the Australian Aboriginal Mentoring Experience
  • Mr. Shane Phillips, Chairman and CEO of The Tribal Warrior Association
  • Prof. Ted Wilkes, Chair, National Aboriginal Drug & Alcohol Committee
  • Mr Nicholas Cowdery AM QC, former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions

Campaign Supporters include:

  • Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) NSW
  • Mr Alan Cameron, AM
  • Mr. Lindon Coombes, Co-Chair of Weave Youth Family and Community
  • Mr. Adam Goodes, Captain of the Sydney Swans AFL Team
  • Aunty Millie Ingram, CEO of Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Service
  • The Institute of Criminology
  • Dr Chris Sarra, Executive Director of The Stronger Smart Institute
  • Mr. Peter Stapleton, Chair of the National Pro Bono Resource Centre
  • Mr. Graham West, CEO of St Vincent de Paul
  • Youth Justice Coalition
  • NSW Reconciliation Council
  • Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)

Campaign Working Group comprises:

  • Sarah Hopkins and Kate Finlayson, Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT)
  • Siobhan Bryson, Weave Youth and Family Community (Waterloo/Redfern)
  • Brad Freeburn, National Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Committee, Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service
  • Anne Cregan, Ashurst Lawyers
  • Gino Vumbaca, Australian National Council on Drugs
  • Lynette Simpson, Aboriginal Drug and Alcohol Network
  • Kerry Graham, Social Change
  • Anne Wickham and Ben Hornbrook, Boxing Clever Pty Ltd
  • Jane Sanders, Shopfront Youth Legal Centre, The Youth Justice Coalition
  • Lana Shaw, Aboriginal Assertive Outreach Neami, Weave Youth and Family Community Youth Advocate
  • Leanne Townsend and Rose McDonald, NSW Reconciliation
  • Bob White and Patrick McCloskey, ANTAR NSW
  • Luke Freudenstein, Superintendent Redfern Local Area Command & Central Metropolitan Regional Sponsor for Aboriginal and Community Issues
  • Shane Phillips, Chairman and CEO of the Tribal Warrior Association
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