In this reflective piece to accompany our recent submission, ANDY HAMILTON SJ articulates the needs for place-based, community led justice reinvestment that is truly effective in the Australian context.
The interest in justice reinvestment grew when the United States was facing high and rising costs of building and staffing prisons. They began to ask whether addressing the social causes that underlay the jailing of people, would be cheaper and more effective. They argued that the money spent on programs to keep people out of prison would be more than equal than that necessary to build more prisons.
The experience of Jesuit Social Services and of others working within the Australian justice system, has enabled us to define more closely the place of justice reinvestment.
In the Australian context, we have learnt it involves reducing crime by strengthening local communities and, in the case of First Nations peoples, guided by the connections of people to culture, community and Country. This approach is distinctively place-based. That is to say it recognises that people are intimately connected to place, and that each place has its own character, services and infrastructure.
Because of the diversity of communities and places, each local community holds the knowledge about its own needs and about how best to respond to them. Successful justice reinvestment initiatives must consequently collaborate and learn from their local communities. To do this, it must first build trusting, reciprocating relationships. Its commitment therefore must be for the long term and its ongoing continuing funding must be guaranteed.
This broad vision of place-based initiatives shapes the detail of what effective justice reinvestment should look like. It relies on strong local leadership and on fostering the expertise and knowledge of community to inform decision-making. The justice reinvestment project and unit should focus on recognising and drawing on the strengths of each community rather than adopting a deficit, punitive approach.