Jesuit Social Services has reiterated calls for Closing the Gap targets to be extended to include driving down indigenous incarceration rates this Sorry Day, as data shows that the country’s indigenous prison population has grown by almost three times the rate of non-indigenous prisoners over the past decade.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that the indigenous prison population has grown by 84 per cent over the past decade (2004-2014), compared with non-indigenous prisoner growth of 28 per cent.
“In Victoria, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise just 0.7 per cent of the state’s population yet represent eight per cent of the state’s prisoners,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.
“This over-incarceration of indigenous people is a national crisis. This Sorry Day, we urge the Federal Government to commit to extending Closing the Gap targets to include a reduction in imprisonment as recommended in the Close the Gap Progress and Priorities 2015 report.”
Ms Edwards says that the recidivism rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) prisoners is significantly higher than non-indigenous prisoners.
“We know that 77 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners had a prior adult imprisonment, compared with 52 per cent of non-indigenous prisoners. This is a clear indication that the system is failing in preventing these people from becoming stuck in the revolving door of our criminal justice system and that not enough is being done to support indigenous prisoners when they exit prison and return to the community.”
On an average day, there are 9,264 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners in Australia, comprising 27 per cent of the total prisoner population. This is a 10 per cent increase compared with last year
The rate of increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison between 2001 and 2011 (most recent Census) was 232 per cent, more than double the rate of increase of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
“The first step to addressing these shocking statistics is making sustained investments to address the root causes of disadvantage within indigenous communities and stronger diversion initiatives to steer indigenous people away from the criminal justice system towards community, culture, learning and work opportunities,” says Ms Edwards.