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Key proposals to reduce the rising prison population and address Aboriginal over incarceration

Just Reinvest NSW is today releasing the first of its policy papers on key proposals to reduce the rising prison population in NSW, with a particular view to addressing the level of Aboriginal overrepresentation, which has risen by 40% over the last decade.

This first paper focuses on the need for smarter sentencing and parole law reform, and in some key areas aligns with the NSW Criminal Justice Reform package announcement.

Sarah Hopkins, the Chair of Just Reinvest NSW said, “To the extent that the Government’s reform package aligns with our proposals regarding smarter sentencing and parole law reform, we are in support. Of critical importance is the need to ensure the availability and expand the scope of community-based sentencing alternatives, that address the underlying causes of crime – particularly in regional and remote areas.”

“We also support the government in its move to provide better tools and resources for Community Corrections Officers to manage less serious breaches of parole and to bring in options for home reintegration detention. These are measures which will better support offenders post release and thereby reduce recidivism.”

In addition to the expansion of community based sentencing options and changes to the parole regime, the Just Reinvest policy paper also details the importance of reducing the imposition of sentences of six months or less, by encouraging greater use of non-custodial alternatives.

The proposals for reform in this policy paper are part of a broader range of proposed measures, each of which is targeted to support the following key objectives:

–        reducing crime to create safe communities;

–        ending post-code justice; and

–        identifying a smarter way to spend the $3.8 billion the NSW Government plans to spend over the next four years to increase prison capacity by 7,000 prison beds.

The proposals comprise part of an overall justice reinvestment strategy through which resulting savings would be reinvested into supporting community driven strategies to reduce crime.

The paper was developed following a roundtable discussion in November 2016, with representatives from the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association, the Law Council of Australia, the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, Legal Aid NSW, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, the University of NSW, the University of Technology Sydney, the Public Defenders office, and other prominent members of the NSW legal community. It will now be the subject of consultation with peak NSW Aboriginal organisations and other key organisations and agencies.

A Parliamentary Forum will be held in the coming months to formally launch the policy paper.

During the consultation period, Just Reinvest NSW will engage with the Government on the detail of its reforms, as well as the need to consider a broader reform package including, but not limited to:

–        better resourcing of drug and alcohol and mental health programs,

–        addressing the specific needs of Indigenous women,

–        expanding the operation of Indigenous Courts across NSW,

–        establishing a more equitable approach to penalty notices and fines and,

–       framing smarter orders and implementing breach reduction strategies.

“Overall, there is a need to ensure Government’s reforms are released through a Justice Reinvestment framework, where savings made due to downward pressure on the prison population are tracked and reinvested into community based options and solutions,” said the Law Society of NSW President Pauline Wright.

Justice reinvestment is a place based, data-driven approach to justice that builds stronger communities by redirecting money that would be spent on prisons into early intervention, crime prevention and diversion.

The Policy Paper can be accessed here: Just Reinvest NSW Policy Paper – Key Proposals #1

17 May 2017


Access Just Reinvest Policy Paper Sources here.

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