Jesuit Social Services has urged the Federal Government to commit to justice targets to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system, in light of a new report that outlines that the country’s Indigenous incarceration rate has risen by 52 per cent over the past decade.
The report, commissioned by the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration and launched today, determines that a lack of culturally appropriate rehabilitation programs is a key factor behind the rise.
“Australia’s Indigenous incarceration rates are a national shame and it is clear that previous strategies to prevent crime and keep people out of prison have not worked,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.
“Too many people who leave prison are worse off than when they enter, and this report outlines a failing criminal justice system where programs that are supposed to help people rehabilitate and prepare for re-entry into the community are culturally inappropriate or limited in scope,” says Ms Edwards.
Ms Edwards says the over-incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people begins from childhood and is often exacerbated by current policies and prectices.
“The abuse and brutalization of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children has been in the national spotlight following revelations from within the Northern Territory’s youth detention system and the establishment of a Royal Commission,” says Ms Edwards.
“Clearly though the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our justice system impacts entire generations of Australians.”
Ms Edwards says committing to justice targets would be a positive step but must be matched by community-owned and driven solutions to address Aboriginal offending.
“Smart policy and smart investments can steer money away from keeping people locked up, help communities tackle the underlying issues behind crime and ultimately create safer communities for all Australians.”
Jesuit Social Services is a social change organisation working to build a just society where all people can live to their full potential.
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