Justice Reinvestment in Australia: Research Papers and Reports


Justice Reinvestment in Australia. A Review of Progress and Key Issues

Fiona Allison and Chris Cunneen (2022)

Research Papers and Reports

Justice Reinvestment in Katherine: Report on Initial Community Consultations

Fiona Allison (2016)

The NT Council of Social Services (NTCOSS) and North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) received funding from the Law Society Public Purposes Trust (NT) in early 2015 to conduct a justice reinvestment (JR) ‘proof of concept’ project in the NT. The project seeks to determine the capacity of JR to reduce incarceration and offending of 10 – 24 year old Indigenous people in Katherine. It is hoped that if successful a JR framework might be used in other NT communities.

Project consultations conducted over the last 12 months indicate that stakeholders in Katherine are overwhelmingly in support of introduction of JR. Given this, we will continue to work with the community to progress JR in coming months, dependent on sourcing additional funding and with an immediate focus on setting up a collective impact (CI) framework in Katherine. CI provides a structure within which key stakeholders come together to enact sustainable social change with respect to complex social problems: in this instance, the high level of contact by young Aboriginal people from Katherine with the justice system.

(open access) via JRNA

Justice Reinvestment in Cherbourg: Report on Initial Community Consultations

Fiona Allison (2018)

Many inquiries and reports have advocated for introduction of JR in Australia, and it is now being implemented in almost all States and Territories. Though there has been engagement with JR in a number of QLD communities, the project initiated in Cherbourg in April 2017 by the Department of Justice and Attorney General (DJAG) (Youth Justice) represents the first time there has been an attempt to implement all 4 formal stages of JR in QLD. The project seeks to identify JR’s capacity to reduce or halt rates of incarceration of young Indigenous people (10-25 years old) in Cherbourg. Cherbourg has been selected for JR because of its levels of contact with the justice system and its potential to lead JR longer-term.

The last 12 months of project work have focused on identifying whether Cherbourg supports introduction of JR and what JR might look like if introduced there. Key project tasks have involved consultation and engagement, as well as data collection and analysis. The project has been guided by a Steering Group, Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council and Youth Justice’s Project Board.

(open access) via JRNA

Justice Reinvestment in Northern Australia

Fiona Allison and Chris Cunneen

James Cook University (2018)

This paper looks at justice issues, and in particular, the potential implementation of Justice Reinvestment (or ‘JR’) in Northern Australia. To date, crime and criminal justice have been absent from discussions on developing Northern Australia, despite the fact that the Northern Territory (NT) has the highest imprisonment rate in Australia, followed by Western Australia (WA) (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2017) and that building and operating prisons constitute significant infrastructure and recurrent costs. The paper begins with a description of JR, which has emerged as a major policy alternative to the current emphasis on the increasing use of imprisonment. It discusses the origins of JR in the USA and the growing interest in recent years in its introduction in Australia. Key elements of JR are explained, as well as its particular importance for Indigenous people. We discuss various projects already implementing JR or exploring the potential to do so, including in Northern Australia. The paper concludes with analysis of challenges to progressing JR, with some focus on Northern Australia.

(open access) via Cairns Institute

A Brighter Tomorrow: Keeping Indigenous Kids in the Community and Out of Detention in Australia

Amnesty International (2015)

The adoption of a justice reinvestment strategy, continuing and increasing the use of indigenous courts and conciliation mechanisms, diversionary and prevention programmes and restorative justice strategies, and recommends that, in consultation with indigenous communities, the State party take immediate steps to review the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, identifying those which remain relevant with a view to their implementation.

(open access) via Amnesty International

AMA Report Card on Indigenous Health

Australian Medical Association (2015)

Further, in its 2012 Position Statement on Health and the Criminal Justice System, the AMA recommended that ‘concerted efforts be made to establish suitable alternatives to imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in contact with the criminal justice system, including the expansion of diversionary programs, non-custodial sentencing options, and justice reinvestment programs’. The AMA also supports the call of the now disbanded National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee to use justice reinvestment principles to fund the diversion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders with substance use disorders into community residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services instead of incarceration.

(open access) via Australian Medical Association

Rethinking Justice: Vulnerability Report

Australian Red Cross (2016)

The analysis of justice reinvestment both in Australia and overseas suggests this approach is more effective than the current approaches to justice. Justice reinvestment invests in people and communities to provide support, treatment and services that address the underlying issues confronting people who commit less serious offences. These issues include homelessness, mental health, deep social exclusion, and poor education and employment histories. Evidence suggests that it is more efficient and effective to address the causes and thus reduce the need for (and greater cost of) incarceration.

(open access) via Australian Red Cross

Arguments for Raising the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility

Chris Cuneen (2020)

The age of criminal responsibility is the primary legal barrier to criminalisation and thus entry into the criminal justice system. This paper 1provides arguments for raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR). Nationally the minimum age is 10 years old. Some Australian states set the MACR at 10 years in the mid-to late1970s (Queensland (1976), NSW (1977) and South Australia (1979)). However, only since the early 2000s has there been a uniform approach to the MACR in all Australian jurisdictions (Cunneen et al 2015: 250). The paper provides a number of reasons for raising the age: international comparisons; the protection of children’s rights; the limited ability of the common law doctrine of doli incapax to protect young children; child developmental arguments and issues of mental illness and cognitive impairment; the over-representation of children in out-of-home-care (OOHC) among young children in the juvenile justice system, criminological arguments relating to the failure of an approach that relies on criminalisation and imprisonment; and the views of juvenile justice practitioners.

(open access) via JRNA

Keeping on Country: Recidivism Research Report

Glenn Dawes

James Cook University (2016)

The over-representation of Indigenous people in the Australian criminal justice system continues to be a major social problem despite numerous reviews and academic studies. Statistics show a disparity in incarceration rates which highlight that there are 1891 prisoners per 100 000 Indigenous adults compared to 136 per 100 000 non-Indigenous adults (ABS, 2009). In addition the economic costs of keeping one person in prison per year is over $76 000 per year. There are also social and economic costs that impact on the families and friends of Indigenous people who are incarcerated. Of greater concern are the high rates of recidivism among Indigenous people, with a 2008 study indicating that a quarter of all Indigenous people who are incarcerated re-offend within six months of their release from prison. This scenario is exacerbated in remote Aboriginal communities where there is a clear correlation between remoteness and disadvantage, with high rates of people suffering from health issues, limited employment opportunities, a lack of suitable housing and people suffering from alcohol and substance abuse issues.

(open access) via North and West Remote Health

Exploring the Potential of Justice Reinvestment in Cowra: Community Report

Jill Guthrie et al

Australian National University (2018)

Cowra, in central west New South Wales, is in the Federal electorate of Hume and the state electorate of Cootamundra.

This research project was designed to work with the community to enable them to set their priorities for how they would like money that is currently spent on incarcerating their citizens reinvested back into the community.

The project was led by Dr Jill Guthrie with colleagues from the Australian National University (ANU), the University of New South Wales and other organisations.

It was guided by a reference group of representatives from the Cowra Aboriginal Land Council, Cowra Shire Council and other local and international experts.

(open access) via Australian National University

Unlocking the Future: Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke Preliminary Assessment

KPMG (2016)

In the Preliminary Assessment, it has been found that the approach aligns with NSW Government and Australian Government justice, early intervention and Indigenous policies designed to promote prevention and social policies, Indigenous self-governance and prevention of crime. The approach is aligned with a pathways life course analysis of juvenile and young adult crime and crime prevention.

The Justice Reinvestment approach, when contrasted several other crime prevention approaches was found to be a promising approach on a number of criterion. The approach has the potential to address the underlying causes of crime, the approach is data-driven and community-led.

(open access) via Just Reinvest NSW

Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project: Impact Assessment

KPMG (2018)

To this end, the Maranguka JR Project has delivered a number of interlinked activities designed to create impact at different levels of community and the justice system. This includes the Aboriginal leadership driving a grassroots movement for change among local community members, facilitating collaboration and alignment across the service system, delivering new community based programs and service hubs, and working with justice agencies to evolve their procedures and behaviours towards a proactive and reinvestment model of justice. These activities all take different timeframes to mature into tangible results and require a phased approach to deliver systems change.

(open access) via Just Reinvest NSW

Insights from the coalface: the value of justice reinvestment for young Australians

Jacqueline McKenzie

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (2013)

If implemented correctly, the Justice Reinvestment framework suggests the generation of a better return on investment in the long term. Although Justice Reinvestment is not a complete replacement for incarceration it can address the increasing costs of the justice system by reducing crime and recidivism rates, strengthening communities and increasing public safety.

The Justice Reinvestment framework shifts the focus of interventions from an individual to the community, and from reactive punishment to proactive prevention and early intervention. Therefore, community-based initiatives are utilised to confront crime at a ‘grass roots’ level, to address the factors within that environment that may be causing and maintaining crime. These initiatives include youth-specific programs and services that are relative to each targeted50 community and designed with significant community input and partnership.

(open access) via Australian Youth Affairs Coalition

Justice Reinvestment

Melanie Schwartz, David Brown and Chris Cunneen

Indigenous Justice Clearing House (2017)

This research brief examines the concept of Justice Reinvestment as it was developed and is currently understood in Australia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. It highlights examples of Justice Reinvestment frameworks and programs which have been implemented in selected jurisdictions, and the views of policy makers and the community views about the benefits of adopting Justice Reinvestment measures to reduce crime and Indigenous overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.

(open access) via Indigenous Justice Clearing House

The Yiriman Project in the West Kimberley: An Example of Justice Reinvestment

Kathryn Thorborn and Melissa Marshall

Indigenous Justice Clearing House (2017)

This paper examines the Yiriman Project in the West Kimberley. The primary goal of the project was to support young Aboriginal people from remote communities connected culturally and linguistically within Nyikina, Managala, Walmajarri and Karajarri traditional lands and language groups. This paper provides an analysis as to whether the Yiriman project is an example of Justice Reinvestment and the complexities of evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of the project.

(open access) via Indigenous Justice Clearing House

Investing in Communities Not Prisons: Exploring the Application of Justice Reinvestment in the Victorian Context

YouthLaw (2017)

While Victoria does not have a justice reinvestment program or pilot, it has significant policy development, investment and work underway that have features of a justice reinvestment approach. Many of these community initiatives (including child protection programs, enhanced child health care, development services and programs to keep at risk young people engaged in school) do not necessarily have justice reform as a stated focus or outcome. They are, however, making a difference in addressing underlying causes of crime and will inevitably contribute to a reduction in the number of young people coming into contact with the criminal justice system and to making communities stronger and safer.

(open access) via YouthLaw