The Australian Greens have urged the Federal Government to listen to the growing community call for Justice Reinvestment in Australia.
More than a dozen individuals representing community and justice groups are coming together at Parliament House today to attend a roundtable hosted by Greens spokesperson for Legal Affairs, Senator Penny Wright. The roundtable will discuss the need for Justice Reinvestment in Australia and the importance of strong federal leadership.
Senator Wright said Australia's prison population had tripled over the last 30 years, outstripping population growth four times over, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders shamefully over-represented in Australian prisons.
"Australia spends almost $3 billion a year on prisons. This money could be better spent. The more we spend imprisoning people, the less we have to spend on essential services such as health and education," Senator Wright said.
"Justice Reinvestment is about shifting money away from prisons into vulnerable communities to address underlying causes of crime.
"All Australians will ultimately reap the public safety benefits of this 'front end' approach to justice spending but it is in our most disadvantaged communities that the call for change is loudest."
Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Tom Calma AO, who introduced the concept of Justice Reinvestment in the 2009 Social Justice Report to the Australian Parliament, says that if things don't change we risk losing another entire generation of Aboriginal Australians to the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
"For too many years reports on justice and prison reforms have gathered dust while politicians espouse a tough-on-crime approach. Justice Reinvestment will work if governments have the will to make it work and if they commit to working in genuine partnership with vulnerable communities," Dr Calma said.
Senator Wright says the time for action is now.
"These groups have come together today to say: enough is enough - we can have less crime, be safer and have less people in our prisons. The economic and social costs of prisons are too high, and the lives of our young people are too precious for us to blindly accept ever-rising imprisonment rates.
"The Federal Government must urgently commit to working with those Australian communities interested in trialling a Justice Reinvestment approach."