Justice Reinvestment in Australia: Academic Research


Justice Reinvestment: Winding Back Imprisonment

David Brown and Chris Cuneen et al (2016)


A Critical Analysis of Justice Reinvestment in the United States and Australia

James Austin and Garry Coventry (2014)

The U.S. and Australia are in different phases with regard to justice re-investment (JRI) strategies and implementation efforts. The results from the U.S. appear equivocal and disappointing with regard to reducing the numbers of the incarcerated population. With no significant decline in prison numbers there are no savings in prison budgets to invest funds in targeted communities, from which many prisoners are drawn. Australia should not be directed by the JRI experience of the U.S. The primary problem for Australia is not so much its incarceration numbers. Compared to the U.S., the prison as a punishment appears to be a more of a sentence of last resort. The key problem for JRI advocates, however, is that Indigenous Australians are grossly over-represented in prison populations and disadvantage in communities from where they reside requires national attention. Both countries require a clear conceptualization of JRI. Without a critical rethink, JRI might have a legacy as yet another “reform” that has failed to reduce mass incarceration.

(pay-walled) via Taylor & Francis Online

Mapping the Conditions of Penal Hope

David Brown (2013)

This article examines the conditions of penal optimism behind suggestions that the penal expansionism of the last three decades may be at a ‘turning point’. The article proceeds by outlining David Green’s suggested catalysts of penal reform and considers how applicable they are in the Australian context. Green’s suggested catalysts are: the cycles and saturation thesis; shifts in the dominant conception of the offender; the GFC and budgetary constraints; the drop in crime; the emergence of the prisoner re-entry movement; apparent shifts in public opinion; the influence of evangelical Christian ideas and the Right on Crime initiative. The article then considers a number of other possible catalysts or forces: the role of trade unions; the role of courts; the emergence of recidivism as a political issue; the influence of ’evidence based’/’what works’’ discourse; and the emergence of justice reinvestment (JR). The article concludes with some comments about the capacity of criminology and criminologists to contribute to penal reductionism, offering an optimistic assessment for the prospects of a reflexive criminology that engages in and engenders a wider politics around criminal justice issues.

(open access) via the International Journal of Crime, Justice and Social Democracy

The Promise of Justice Reinvestment

David Brown, Melanie Schwartz and Laura Boseley (2012)

This article examines the notion and practice of Justice Reinvestment (‘JR’), an emerging approach addressing the high social and economic costs of soaring incarceration rates. JR invests in public safety by reallocating dollars from corrections budgets to finance education, housing, healthcare, and jobs in high-crime communities. Key distinguishing features of JR (including justice and asset mapping, budgetary devolution and localism, and the desirability of bipartisanship) are briefly outlines, followed by discussions of its recent emergence and application in the United States, and to a lesser extent in the United Kingdom. The prospects for the adoption of JR approaches in the Australian context it is important that it be subject to critical scrutiny and therefore some of the key problems are briefly outlined, before a conclusion which emphasises the potential benefits of JR.

(pay-walled) via Sage Journals

Crime Prevention and Young People: Models and Future Direction for Youth Night Patrols

Trudi Cooper, John Scott, Elaine Barclay, Margaret Sims and Terence Love (2016)

This article presents a typology of different approaches to social crime prevention adopted by Australian Indigenous youth night patrols. Research that informed this typology occurred in a specific context, but generic observations about youth crime prevention policy are transferable to community youth crime prevention in other settings. The typology identifies several key points of difference between various service delivery models, in particular, different perceptions of relationships between crime prevention; community safety; community development; community self-determination; child protection; and youth development and welfare. Discussion teases out how political discourse frames concepts such as community governance, self-determination, paternalism, and funding accountability. The discussion illustrates how politicised decision-making has meant that policy makers responded selectively to programme evaluations, in ways that did not always maximise benefit. The typology is intended to be useful to youth crime prevention practitioners, evaluators, and policy makers.

(pay-walled) via SpringerLink

Keeping on Country: understanding and responding to crime and recidivism in remote Indigenous communities

Glenn Dawes, Andrea Davidson, Edward Walden and Sarah Isaacs (2017)

The objectives of this qualitative study were to examine local perspectives on the causes of crime and recidivism in two remote Indigenous communities, and provide a series of recommendations regarding more effective responses that could be implemented by way of justice reinvestment.

This research found that people in remote Indigenous communities are aware of the complex issues associated with crime in their community and have clear ideas regarding what can be done. We argue that in order to understand and address Indigenous crime and over‐representation in the criminal justice system, the perspective of Indigenous people must be elevated and communities empowered to identify and implement ecologically and culturally informed solutions that will work for them.

(pay-walled) via Taylor & Francis Online

Justice Reinvestment: What is it? Has it been tried in Australia?

Tony Foley (2015)

Justice Reinvestment (JR) is held out as a new means of lowering incarceration rates and reducing rates of return to prison. But what is it exactly, and how successful has it been? Why has it not yet been tried in Australia and what might an Australian model look like?

(pay-walled) via Informit

Investment in Prisons: An investment in social exclusion? Linking the theories of Justice Investment and Social Inclusion to Examine Australia’s Propensity to Incarcerate

Jill Guthrie, Michael Levy and Cressida Fforde (2013)

Much of the conceptual space occupied by Justice Reinvestment theory suggests clear links with the theoretical framework of Social Inclusion and therein understandings of the social determinants of health. This article seeks to explore this mutually interested and unified relationship, and furthermore examine how their combined adoption in Australia would provide benefits for the general population as well as those in contact with the criminal justice system. Despite the existence of consistently strong links between social disadvantage and imprisonment, it is apparent the social determinants of health have yet to adequately address their implications for incarceration. Forming these links, this article will introduce and explore the notion of the social determinants of incarceration. Moreover, the importance of the social and economic imperatives to be realised through the adoption of Justice Reinvestment ideals will be argued, in turn providing explanation for why the coalescing of Justice Reinvestment and Social Inclusion is fundamentally important to consider. Therefore, we hope to prompt insightful questioning of our current institutional processes such as: Is investment in new prisons really investment in social exclusion?

(open access) via Griffith Journal

Looking beyond Offenders to the Needs of Victims and Communities

Mick Gooda, Emilie Priday and Louise McDermott (2013)

As a result of increased advocacy for justice reinvestment in recent years, the Australian Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is conducting an Inquiry into the value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia. The Australian Human Rights Commission’s former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Dr Tom Calma, was one of the first proponents of the justice reinvestment approach in Australia in the Social Justice Report 2009. Since then advocacy for justice reinvestment has been building and a number of authoritative reports have made recommendations about justice reinvestment. This article examines the applications for justice reinvestment in Australia, primarily in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, although some consideration has been given to vulnerable groups including juvenile offenders, people with cognitive impairment, people with psychosocial disability and hearing impairment. In particular, given that justice issues are largely the responsibility of states and territories, this article examines ways in which the federal government could support and encourage justice reinvestment approaches through Council of Australian Governments (COAG) mechanisms.

(pay-walled) via Atoda

Justice Reinvestment and Over-Policing: A Conversation with Sarah Hopkins

Eleanor Holden and Sarah Hopkins (2016)

Just Reinvest NSW was formed by a coalition of more than twenty organisations and individuals from New South Wales to address the significant over-representations of Aboriginal young people in custody through a Justice Reinvestment approach. Just Reinvest’s key message to the government and the community is that there is a solution; a smarter approach that will reduce crime and create safer, stronger communities.

(open access) via Informit

Justice Reinvestment as a Global Phenomenon

Ross Homel (2014)

Justice Reinvestment (JR) is an international movement that had its origins in the early 2000s in the United States (Tucker& Cadora, 2003). From the beginning proponents were animated by data showing that incarcerated individuals come overwhelmingly from the poorest and most marginalized sectors of society, and that there is a remarkable concentration of serious offenders growing up in a relatively small number of communities across the country. Indeed Tucker and Cadora (2003) coined the phrase “million dollar blocks,” referring to some small areas in Brooklyn where so many people were in prison that it cost a million dollars a year to incarcerate them. Would it not, these authors opined, make more sense economically and socially to invest directly in these communities to improve living conditions and reduce the risk factors for crime than to continue to pursue a ‘fundamentalist’ policy of reliance on mass incarceration to improve public safety?

(open access) via Research Gate

‘Good Kid, Mad System’: the Role of Health in Reforming Justice for Vulnerable Communities

Anthea Krieg and Jill Guthrie et al (2016)

It is time to re-define our criminal justice system to redress the over-reliance on incarceration as the means of achieving safer communities. A substantive reconfiguration of mental health, disability and substance misuse services is essential to provide comprehensive treatment rather than punish for vulnerable people. An innovative policy that is gaining traction is justice reinvestment (JR). As a systems-based approach, JR encompasses a comprehensive range of areas such as health, housing, employment, justice, family support, mental health and substance misuse services. It impels policymakers to consider the implications of current punitive polities that result in more incarceration, particularly of Indigenous Australians, and instead fund initiatives that redress the health and social determinants of incarceration.

(open access) via Research Gate

Navigating the Political Landscape of Australian Criminal Justice Reform: Senior Policymakers on Alternatives to Incarceration

Melissa Lovell and Jill Guthrie (2018)

Political ideology and populism are often thought to be major impediments to criminal justice reform. Our research has attempted to deconstruct these ideas so that the robustness of the ‘punitive turn’ in criminal justice policy can be better understood. This article reports upon in-depth interviews conducted with five very senior criminal justice policy-makers, each of whom was broadly sympathetic to reforming criminal justice policy to achieve the goal of lower incarceration levels. The interviews reveal that these policy-makers conceived of prison reform primarily in terms of political risk, especially when reform was related to the adoption of prison alternatives and models that focus on ‘decarceration’. Furthermore, policymakers’ perceptions of political risk were intricately bound up with concerns about potential public policy and program failure. This research indicates the need to develop political will for reform, alongside the further development of the myriad evaluation and policy development processes required to enable successful reform in the criminal justice space.

(pay-walled) via Taylor & Francis Online

Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Australian Prisons

Anita Mackay (2017)

Article 10(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires that ‘[a]ll persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person’. There is a body of international law that elaborates on its requirements. Article 10(1) and domestic legislation that incorporates this requirement have direct implications for how managers and staff within prisons behave towards those in their custody. In general, Australian prisons do not comply well with these requirements. This article first reviews the intent of Article 10(1) and guidance from the United Nations Human Rights Committee about its operation. Secondly, it reviews relevant Australian legislation and documents a number of ways in which Australian prison practice fails to live up to these standards. Thirdly, it identifies two important barriers to be overcome to address this situation. It concludes that a justice reinvestment approach has the potential to assist Australia towards compliance with Article 10(1).

(pay-walled) via Taylor & Francis Online

Prevention Initiatives within the Criminal Justice System of Western Australia and the Importance of the Reciprocal Relationship between the Individual and Their Community

Marie Ni Mahuna (2016)

This paper explores justice reinvestment as a possible solution to the issues identified in the Western Australia criminal justice system. It draws upon the connection between the philosophical writing of the relationship between the individual and the community by highlighting the reciprocal nature of this relationship, emphasising the fact that an adequate philosophical account of the human person must recognise and describe this reciprocity. The research investigates other jurisdictions and how these jurisdictions have addressed the overcrowding of prisons and recidivism. The research also includes local projects that are addressing the causal relationship between the general levels of disadvantage of particular communities and their contact with the justice system.

(open access) via Austlii

Building Communities, Not Prisons: Justice Reinvestment and Indigenous Over-Representation

Melanie Schwartz (2010)

Justice reinvestment is an emerging approach to addressing expanding prison populations. The merits of the justice reinvestment approach adopted in the United States and the United Kingdom to divert funding from correction budgets for investment in programs to reduce criminal behaviour in communities with a high rate of criminal offense are discussed, also analysing its potential for application in the Indigenous context in Australia. It is suggested that the approach is a worthy replacement to costs of Indigenous over-imprisonment, also being in line with policy aims to fulfil the social and economic needs of Indigenous communities.

(open access) via Austlii

Redressing Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system with justice reinvestment

Melanie Schwartz (2013)

‘Australia is locking up more people than ever before… Less than 3 per cent of Australians identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, but Indigenous Australians make up more than a quarter of the nation’s prison population. They are among the most imprisoned people groups in the world. In fact, an Indigenous person is more likely to be returned to prison than they are to stay in high school or university. This is a national disgrace.’ Senator Penny WrightSenator Wright is among the growing number of advocates for justice reinvestment (JR), a new approach to reducing the number of people in prison while building capacity – ranging from infrastructure and program delivery to social capital and resilience – in those places that produce the highest numbers of prisoners. In Australia, consideration of a JR approach necessarily means examination of how it might reduce the contact of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people with the criminal justice system. This article will first consider the nature of Indigenous over-representation, and then discuss the potential of JR to add a new and hopeful chapter to the long history of ATSI mass-imprisonment in Australia.

(open access) via Austlii

Justice Reinvestment: The Cost Benefits of Trusting and Supporting Indigenous People to Mediate their Troubles

Mary Spiers Williams (2016)

In June 2015, economists Anne Daly and Greg Barrett and mediator Rhian Williams presented the findings of their cost-benefit analysis of the Yuendumu Mediation and Justice Committee (‘YM and JC’) operating in Yuendumu in central Australia. Their presentation to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (‘AIATSIS’) was subtitled ‘The Economic Case for Local Dispute Management Services’. The findings were impressive: if the YM and JC is properly funded, then for every $1 spent, there will be a benefit of $4.30 over 10 years. Greg Barrett explained the significance of these findings by making this comparison: if the World Bank receives an analysis of a cost benefit of $1.10 this is considered good; a benefit of more than four dollars is exceptional. Over 10 years if the total costs of the YM and JC are $4 359 000, then the total benefits on present value will be $18 522 000. That is a net benefit of $14 163 000 on present value.

(open access) via Austlii

Downsizing Prisons in an Age of Austerity? Justice Reinvestment and Women’s Imprisonment

Julie Stubbs (2016)

Justice Reinvestment is being actively promoted as one means of reducing high levels of incarceration through diverting expenditures from prisons to fund services intended to provide support and supervision for offenders within the community and to prevent crime. At a time of financial stringency, the huge expenditure necessitated by high incarceration rates is being re-examined. There is growing recognition that high levels of incarceration are ineffective in reducing recidivism and may be criminogenic and damaging in other ways for individuals and communities. Based on claims that Justice Reinvestment schemes in the US have produced promising results, some activists and politicians in Australia have urged the adoption of Justice Reinvestment. This advocacy has emphasised the need to find mechanisms to reduce the very high levels of incarceration of Indigenous people. Women’s imprisonment rates have increased substantially in recent years and to a greater extent than rates for men. This pattern has been observed in several jurisdictions and is even more pronounced for Indigenous women. This paper critically examines features of Justice Reinvestment, such as its endorsement of ‘evidence based policy’ and risk assessment tools, to question whether these features are likely to promote the interests of women.

(open access) via Austlii

Justice Reinvestment in Australia

Wood William (2014)

Over the past three decades, Australia has seen more than a 100% increase in its rate of incarceration. A sizable part of this has come from the rise in incarcerated indigenous people. Australia also experiences problems related to high rates of recidivism, the increasing use of custodial sentences for parole violations, and the use of incarceration for minor offenses such as traffic violations. In response to these problems, a growing number of policy makers, public and private organizations, and academics have pushed for the development and implementation of justice reinvestment (JR) initiatives in Australia. This article provides an overview of JR. It highlights some of the more pertinent problems facing the justice system, offenders, victims of crime, and local communities in regards to the use of punishment and incarceration in Australia. It then considers the degree to which JR may or may not be able to deliver on some or all of its promises, in particular problems that it faces in terms of implementation, use, and long-term viability in Australia.

(open access) via Research Gate

Epidemic Incarceration and Justice Reinvestment: It’s Time for Change

Wendy-Rea Young and Tammy Solonec (2011)

Australia has alarming levels of incarceration of Indigenous peoples. The problem has not been adequately addressed since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, particularly in a climate in which State and Territory Governments wish to appear ‘tough on crime’. This article poses solutions in the form of Justice Reinvestment in which the diversion of funds from prison construction and operation is channelled into anti-recidivism programs in areas with high rates of criminal incidence and offender numbers. Justice Reinvestment programs emerged in high prison population states in the US and have enjoyed successes in helping to reduce detention rates and improve community conditions. This article explores epidemic incarceration, underlying causes, and the financial costs of such issues. It goes to explore the Justice Reinvestment model and its capacity to be applied to the Australian setting, particularly given the geographic differences in high incarceration areas. Using a discussion of programs that have worked in the Australian context, the article concludes that a piloting of Justice Reinvestment programs will build on currently initiated, community programs to more effectively address the issue of Indigenous overrepresentation in Australian prisons.

(open access) via Austlii


Justice Reinvestment as Social Justice’ in The Routledge International Handbook of Criminology and Human Rights

Chris Cuneen and David Brown (2016)

This chapter draws on the work of the Australian Justice Reinvestment Project (AJRP) (Brown et al., 2015). The AJRP examined the development of justice reinvestment particularly in the context of it’s alignment with broad social justice values. We are also specifically interested in how and whether justice reinvestment can meet the needs of those social groups that have been adversely affected by mass imprisonment and hyper-incarceration, particularly racial and Indigenous minorities, women and people with mental health issues and cognitive impairment (Cunneen et al., 2013). We argue that justice reinvestment was in its early development strongly tied to civil rights, particularly with the focus on imprisonment and racialization, and social justice for communities where large numbers of residents were recycled in and out of prison.

(open access) via SSRN