The Justice Reinvestment Network Australia (JRNA) is a group of community leaders, practitioners, researchers and policy colleagues interested in the area of Justice Reinvestment and other alternatives to incarceration, particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Since 2015, we have met to share knowledge and to create a community of interest around justice reinvestment. We have members from across Australia and we include people engaged in local justice reinvestment projects, representatives from various non-government organisations, policy-makers, academics and other interested groups.
You can find a list of individuals and organisations affiliated with the JRNA here.
The JRNA was established because of the widespread interest in justice reinvestment among many community members who were eager to develop their understanding of JR and share their experiences. Our aims include providing a forum for the discussion of issues and to disseminate information relevant to the development of justice reinvestment.
A Brief History of JR in Australia
Australian interest in justice reinvestment began with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s 2009 Social Justice Report which specifically explored the potential for justice reinvestment in Indigenous communities. Also in 2009, the Commonwealth Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee in its inquiry, Access to Justice, recommended a pilot of justice reinvestment strategies focusing on regional and remote Indigenous communities.
In 2010, the Australian Greens adopted justice reinvestment as part of their justice policy platform. In the same year a review of the NSW Juvenile Justice system proposed the implementation of justice reinvestment strategies in the juvenile context (Noetic Solutions, 2010). In 2011 the Commonwealth House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs lent its support to justice reinvestment in its report on the over-incarceration of Indigenous young people, Doing Time – Time for Doing (HRSC, 2011). Three months later, a Northern Territory government review (2011) of its youth justice system supported the use of justice reinvestment to address youth incarceration. Doing Time’s recommendation that further research be conducted to investigate the potential for justice reinvestment in Australia (Rec. 40) was accepted by the Federal Government, and the National Justice CEOs established a Working Group to develop options for working towards justice reinvestment in Australia.
In 2012 the ALP Federal government, with the support of the Greens, initiated a Senate inquiry into the value of justice reinvestment in Australia. The Inquiry was chaired by Western Australian Greens Senator, Penny Wright. The terms of reference for the inquiry included:
- the over-representation of disadvantaged groups within Australian prisons, Including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people experiencing mental ill-health, cognitive disability and hearing loss;
- the cost, availability and effectiveness of alternatives to imprisonment, including prevention, early intervention, diversionary and rehabilitation measures;
- the methodology and objectives of justice reinvestment;
- the benefits of, and challenges to, implementing a justice reinvestment approach in Australia;
- the collection, availability and sharing of data necessary to implement a justice reinvestment approach;
- the implementation and effectiveness of justice reinvestment in other countries, including the United States of America;
- the scope for federal government action which would encourage the adoption of justice reinvestment policies by state and territory governments (Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee, 2013: iii).
The Inquiry, drawing on 131 submissions, favoured the adoption of justice reinvestment in Australia and recommended that the Commonwealth Government play a leadership role in establishing and funding a trial and collecting and sharing data (recs 1, 2, 5, 7, 8). The Inquiry emphasized that any trial should include at least one remote Indigenous community (rec 6). Following a change of federal government in 2013, these recommendations have not been progressed.
The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples launched their justice policy in 2013, which referred to a high level of support among Congress members for justice reinvestment trials. The policy singled out pre-trial remand as an opportunity for JR “because of the immediate cost savings to the justice system of reducing the remand population”. National Congress in The Redfern Statement (2016) called on the Federal Government to commit to ‘community controlled justice reinvestment initiatives that can allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led solutions to dramatically turn around justice outcomes’.
For further information on the background to justice reinvestment in Australia, see Brown, Cunneen, Schwartz, Stubbs and Young (2016) Justice Reinvestment. Winding Back Imprisonment and Schwartz, Brown and Cunneen (2017) Justice Reinvestment, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse.
The Australian Law Reform Commission and Pathways to Justice Report (2018)
The Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report, Pathways to Justice. An Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, was tabled in Federal Parliament in March 2018.The Commission made a number of important recommendations to develop justice reinvestment in Australia. We still await the government’s response.
The ALRC recommended the following:
Recommendation 4–1 Commonwealth, state and territory governments should provide support for the establishment of an independent justice reinvestment body. The purpose of the body should be to promote the reinvestment of resources from the criminal justice system to community-led, place-based initiatives that address the drivers of crime and incarceration, and to provide expertise on the implementation of justice reinvestment.
Its functions should include:
· providing technical expertise in relation to justice reinvestment;
· assisting in developing justice reinvestment plans in local sites; and
· maintaining a database of evidence-based justice reinvestment strategies
The justice reinvestment body should be overseen by a board with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership.
Recommendation 4–2 Commonwealth, state and territory governments should support justice reinvestment trials initiated in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, including through:
· facilitating access to localised data related to criminal justice and other relevant government service provision, and associated costs;
· supporting local justice reinvestment initiatives; and
· facilitating participation by, and coordination between, relevant government departments and agencies.
ALRC (2017) Pathways to Justice. An Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, p.13