Our primary policy priority is to
Progress a national Justice Reinvestment agenda
This agenda prioritises
Community and particularly First Nations community leadership and expertise underpinning the design and implementation of Justice Reinvestment.
Support to communities to identify and access flexible and sustainable funding from different sources.
Enactment of policy and law reforms to the justice system weaknesses and inefficiencies highlighted by the Justice Reinvestment process.
Below is a brief history on the advocacy for Justice Reinvestment in Australia
Justice Reinvestment (JR) was coined in the United States of America
Proposed by Susan Tucker and Eric Cadora the idea was redirecting a portion of the tens of billions of dollars America spends on prisons into addressing underlying causes of crime in high-incarceration neighbourhoods. The originators of Justice Reinvestment advocated ‘taking a geographic approach to public safety that targets money for programs in education, health, job creation, and job training in low-income communities’, and rebuilding human resources and physical infrastructure – schools, healthcare facilities, parks, and public spaces. In order to do this, accountability and funds were to be devolved to local authorities, to seek community level solutions to community level problems.
Australia’s interest in JR begins with a focus on First Nations communities
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s 2009 Social Justice Report specifically explored the potential for Justice Reinvestment in First Nations communities.
The Commonwealth Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee in its inquiry, Access to Justice also recommended a pilot of Justice Reinvestment strategies focusing on regional and remote First Nations communities.
Support for JR focusses on First Nations youth + JR is adopted by the Australian Greens
The Australian Greens adopted Justice Reinvestment as part of their justice policy platform.
A review of the NSW Juvenile Justice system prepared for the Juvenile Justice Minister proposed the implementation of Justice Reinvestment strategies in the juvenile context.
Support grows amongst Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments + establishment of national JR working group
The Commonwealth House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs supports Justice Reinvestment in its report on the over-incarceration of First Nations young people, Doing Time – Time for Doing. Recommendation 40 report proposes further investigation into the potential for Justice Reinvestment. This recommendation was accepted by the Commonwealth Government, and the National Justice CEOs established a Working Group which was tasked to develop options for working towards Justice Reinvestment in Australia.
A Northern Territory government review of its youth justice system also supported the use of Justice Reinvestment to address youth incarceration.
Senate Inquiry recommends implementation of JR however recommendations were not implemented following a change in government
The Senate Inquiry into the value of Justice Reinvestment was launched by the Australian Labor Party government, with the support of the Greens. The enquiry was chaired by Western Australian Greens Senator, Penny Wright. The terms of reference for the inquiry included
- the over-representation of disadvantaged groups in prisons particularly First Nations and persons with disability
- the cost, availability and effectiveness of alternatives to imprisonment
- the methodology, objectives, international examples, challenges and opportunities of implementing Justice Reinvestment
- data availability and access
Drawing from the 131 submissions, the adoption of Justice Reinvestment in Australia was favoured. The Inquiry also proposed the Commonwealth Government play a leadership role in establishing and funding a trial alongside collecting and sharing data (recs 1, 2, 5, 7, 8). The Inquiry emphasised that any trial should include at least one remote First Nations community (rec 6). Following a change of Commonwealth Government in 2013, these recommendations have not been progressed.
JR supported by the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
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 Justice Reinvestment “because of the immediate cost savings to the justice system of reducing the remand population”. Their support for Justice Reinvestment was later affirmed in the Redfern Statement (2016) which called on the Commonwealth 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’.
Australia’s first trial JR site launched in Bourke + launch of the Justice Reinvestment Network Australia
In a partnership between the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT and the Bourke community, the first trial site for JR was launched (now known as ‘Maranguka’). Shortly after the trial site was launched, ABC Four Corners visited Bourke for an update. This was a point in time snapshot of the Bourke Justice Reinvestment story ‘Backing Bourke’.
The Justice Reinvestment Network Australia was also launched.
Positive improvements shown in Bourke + JR recommended by the Australian Law Reform Commission
An Impact Assessment of Maranguka’s activities estimated positive improvements in
- Family strength (including a 23% reduction in police recorded domestic violence)
- Youth development (including a 31% increase in Year 12 retention)
- Adult empowerment (including a 42% reduction in days spent in custody)
They also calculated that Maranguka saved the NSW economy $3.1 million, five times their operating costs through impact of the justice system and broader local economy.
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 2018. The ALRC made multiple recommendations to develop Justice Reinvestment in Australia. The Liberal / National Party Government who had requested the Review never responded to the recommendations prior to losing office in May 2022.
The ALRC recommendations included
(Rec 4–1) Commonwealth, state and territory governments should provide support for the establishment of an independent Justice Reinvestment body overseen by a board with First Nations leaders. 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
- maintaining a database of evidence-based Justice Reinvestment strategies
(Rec 4–2) Commonwealth, state and territory governments should support Justice Reinvestment trials initiated in partnership with First Nations communities, including by
- facilitating access to localised data related to criminal justice and other relevant government service provision, and associated costs
- supporting local justice reinvestment initiatives
- facilitating participation by, and coordination between, relevant government departments and agencies
Australian Labor Party commits to expanding Justice Reinvestment in 2023
The Australian Labor Party commits to expanding Justice Reinvestment in 2023 with funding for more than 30 communities.
For further information on the development of Justice Reinvestment in Australia see our what is Justice Reinvestment and resources pages.