The Victorian state government has inherited a costly and ineffective criminal justice system in serious need of significant reform, according to Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.
Today’s State Budget revealed that an additional $156.0 million will be spent on the criminal justice system over the next year, making it the fifth successive budget to substantially increase spending in this area.
“The increase in the annual prison budget comparing the 2011-12 budget – the previous Government’s first budget – with today’s announcement is $461.9 million. Our new government has inherited a system under duress with record numbers of prisoners and a projected increase in the average daily prisoner population to between 6,915 and 7,300.
“The spending increase is the equivalent to six per cent of the combined primary and secondary school budget; and equivalent to the recurrent budget of 96 schools. It is clear that these year on year funding increases are not achieving their intended aim of making our communities safer, evidenced by the fact that Victoria’s crime rate increased in 2014,” says Ms Edwards.
“Recidivism has increased to a new high in 2014-15, with 45 per cent of prisoners now returning to prison within two years. Clearly, the system is not working, and every extra dollar spent on imprisonment is a dollar not spent on education, health, transport and other priorities that work to prevent crime before it occurs and create safer communities.”
Jesuit Social Services’ analysis reveals a $692.0 million spike in prison spending over the past decade – the difference between $364.0 million spent in prisons in 2005-06 and the $1,056.0 million spent this year. The organisation’s analysis showed that the $692.0 million could instead rent 40,326 three-bedroom homes for a year, or fund 144 schools for the same period.
“At the same time, Jesuit Social Services welcomes the state government’s investments into improving access to services and supports in prison, particularly for women; in strengthening community connections; providing more legal assistance for vulnerable people; increasing access to crisis support for women and children fleeing family violence; strengthening schools and TAFEs and supporting vulnerable young people.
“We also welcome another commitment to restore community mental health services for vulnerable people with mental illness that were defunded by the previous government, and to continue the Homelessness Innovation Action Plan.”