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Justice Reinvestment or by any other name

May 6th, 2013


The Justice Reinvestment cultural wave is growing and where only a few years ago it was derided by some, now more and more are jumping on the bandwagon to give it a go.

Former Western Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is federal politics bound come September once described Justice Reinvestment as pie in the sky “vague and fuzzy utopian fantasy.”

However, with the burgeoning cultural wave of national parliamentary inquiries, conferences and the growing literature on Justice Reinvestment the Western Australian Government looks to be softening up to it.

Corrective Services Minister Joes Francis said that “getting people on the right track makes sense.”

“Call it Justice Reinvestment or prevention programs or whatever might be, the principle of spending money to try to get people on the right track to step them breaking the law and in ending in jail makes sense,” said Mr Francis to The West Australian today.

He said there is both a social and economic benefit to the State.

The Department of Corrective Services of Western Australia spends a paltry $2 million on prevention programs from its annual $700 million budget.

“We can do better than $2 million,” said Minister Francis.

He said that everyone is telling me that if the Government spends more on prevention that they will reduce prison numbers.

Western Australia continues to increase it prison population numbers, more than 5,000 this year for the first and now at 5,200. Aboriginal peoples comprise 42 per cent the Western Australian prison population but only 2.5 per cent of the State population. As a peoples they are incarcerated in WA prisons at the world’s highest rate. This in itself is criminal.

84 per cent of the Northern Territory’s prison population is comprised of Aboriginal peoples. 26 per cent of Australia’s prison population is comprised of Aboriginal peoples who are less than 3 per cent the nation’s total population.

Australia juvenile detention increases each year and not has reduced at all in the last decade despite the United States reducing their juvenile detention numbers in that same period by implementing Justice Reinvestment measures.

Australia detains its Aboriginal youth at the world’s highest rate.

Mr Francis said that Justice Reinvestment would have to be a whole-of-government approach and not limited to Corrective Services. He said it would involve the ministries of housing, health, mental health and employment.

The statistics indict the call for change in Western Australia, and it is not just the remote regions in the State with high incarceration rates, it is also Perth itself. Central Perth has the highest jailing rate in the State with 8 people per 1,000 in 2011-12. Kwinana came in second, Belmont third, Bassendean fourth and Armadale fifth. High youth unemployment and other social factors underwrite these grim statistics but attitudes and stereotypes underwrite the social factors.

-The writer of this article declares an impartiality conflict of interest. Gerry Georgatos is a PhD researcher in Australian Custodial Systems and Australian Deaths in Custody. He is a prison reform advocate who believes that children and adults should not be incarcerated for non-violent offences. He has visited prisons on a number of occasions to inspire the incarcerated to various opportunities pre-release and post-release.

For more information on Justice Reinvestment read previous articles:

National inquiry into justice reinvestment

Kalacc lends its weight to justice reinvestment

Justice reinvestment push by the national congress

Tripartite report blasts Western Australia’s prison system as ineffective

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