Ahead of the Victorian State Budget, Jesuit Social Services has urged the State Government to commit to achieving a 15 per cent reduction in reoffending rates over the next five years.

“Every dollar spent in the budget is a dollar not being spent on vital community services like housing, education and mental health,” says Jesuit Social Services CEO Julie Edwards.

“Setting a target like this would both ease the strain on the state’s corrections system and ultimately help to create safer communities.”

Ms Edwards says that the percentage of prisoners released who returned to prison within two years is currently at a 10-year high of 44 per cent, up from 34 per cent four years ago.

“This is clear evidence that our prison system is failing to rehabilitate people for their return to the community,” says Ms Edwards.

In 2014, Jesuit Social Services published economic modelling which showed that a modest 15 per cent reduction in the rate of male reoffending could reduce the annual cost of the corrections system by up to $23.4 million.

“This is an opportunity for our Government to show true leadership in committing to a target. It is extremely disheartening to see that the rate of people returning to prison has increased in each of the past four years,” says Ms Edwards.

“Recidivism represents a significant cost to the Victorian community, but at the same time also presents a significant opportunity for savings.”

Committing to a 15 per cent reduction is one of the key recommendations in Jesuit Social Services’ submission to the 2016-17 State Budget, which features a range of proposed reforms and investments across areas such as adult and youth justice, education, training and employment, and mental health and wellbeing.

“Too many people exit prison worse off than when they entered. Prison should always be used as a last resort so we hope the upcoming State Budget will include additional investments to divert people away from the system where possible, and to prepare prisons better prepare people for their release.”

“Our submission also highlights that specific services and investments are needed to work with particularly vulnerable groups including women, young people and Aboriginal Australians. Creating the safer communities we all want to live in will take a long time and sustained effort – but committing to a target to reduce reoffending would be a very positive start.”