The Australian Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs recently called for submissions on the ‘value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia’. This followed referral of this issue for inquiry and report on 26 November 2012.
Addressing the underlying social and economic causes of crime is the most effective and cost efficient way to prevent crime, reduce re-offending and make our communities safer. Justice reinvestment involves re-directing a portion of the costs associated with imprisonment (the annual cost to taxpayers is around $90 000 per prisoner in Australia) to provide better education, health care systems and rehabilitation programs that help to reduce recidivism and promote fundamental human rights.
Justice reinvestment has received considerable attention in a number of states in the United States. The Senate Committee requested submissions on a broad range of issues that would assist the Committee to determine the value of similar programs in Australia — such as the drivers behind the rise in incarceration, particularly among disadvantaged groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, current opportunities for alternatives to incarceration and the costs of implementing a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia.
The Committee has received over 100 submissions and is expected to submit its report to the senate on 20 June 2013.
MADELEINE FORSTER is a lawyer presently seconded to the Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne.