New data released yesterday revealing a further increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people incarcerated in Victoria is evidence that further work is needed to meet the specific needs of these groups in the justice system, says Jesuit Social Services.

Quarterly Corrective Services statistics published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the daily average of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison in 2015 was 501, a 19 per cent increase since 2013.

“It is extremely disheartening to see that indigenous incarceration rates remain persistently high,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

The new data comes on the back of research compiled by Save The Children revealing that it costs the nation $236 million each year to lock up indigenous young people.

“It is clear that a total rethink is needed to prevent young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from becoming stuck in the revolving door of the criminal justice system, and further investments must be made to address the culturally specific needs of this group of people when they do come in contact,” says Ms Edwards.

Jesuit Social Services calls on the Victorian Government to include targeted investment in the upcoming 2016-17 budget to ensure the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are front and centre in the planning and delivery of prison and post-release services.

This means increasing of the number of identified positions for Aboriginal Wellbeing and Aboriginal Liaison Officers, investing in ongoing cultural awareness training for all staff in prisons and providing funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander case managers to work with prisoners.

“The ultimate goal is to prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from becoming involved in the prison system in the first place, and we have called for specialist Koori Children’s Courts in each jurisdiction to support this. However an increase in culturally specific support services in prison can also help people prepare for their return to the community and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.”