After a number of parliamentary reports recommended that governments trial justice reinvestment in Australia, Jesuit Social Services has welcomed the Commonwealth Government’s $69 million grants funding announcement late last year. It demonstrates an important commitment to Closing the Gap and to improving outcomes for families and communities around the Country.
Responses to crime, disadvantage and poor quality of life in some local communities, require more than current systems and policies are offering. This is evident when half of young people released from detention reoffend and return within 12 months, when Aboriginal young people remain 25 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous young people and when the prison population continues to grow, up from 29,700 in 2010 to 41,060 in 2020. In recognising a need for change and reform, Jesuit Social Services welcomes the opportunity to respond to the ‘Justice Reinvestment Design- Discussion Paper,’ recognising the importance of a community led, placed-based Justice Reinvestment Project and Unit.
The move towards justice reinvestment (JR) has been driven in part by a realisation that small subsets of communities within a state or nation are far more likely than others to generate patterns of chronic offending that are costly. As demonstrated in our Dropping off the Edge research, released over five reports since 1999 and most recently in 2021, disproportionate levels of unemployment, housing stress and the disengagement of young people in education and employment, among a series of other indicators for disadvantage, continue to be concentrated in a small number of communities across Australia. All of these factors can be strong drivers for involvement in the justice system.
Jesuit Social Services has been advocating for a number of years for the establishment of community-based alternatives to incarceration and the exploration of applying a JR model in Australia including responding to the 2013 Senate Inquiry into the value of a JR approach to criminal justice in Australia. Further, in 2017 we wrote a position paper about the importance of learning from people and understanding that where a person lives and the community they are part of, affects their likelihood of coming into contact with the justice system. The paper ‘Flourishing communities- Taking lessons from place-based approaches, justice reinvestment and social cohesion’ highlights that in order to reduce crime and ensure children and families have the supports and resources to thrive, we must focus on areas of disadvantage in a concerted way that takes into account the specific structural issues and conditions that hinder participation in society.
Jesuit Social Services is generally supportive of the intent of this project and JR in Australia, however, our submission raises some initial concerns and feedback regarding the process thus far and the extent to which JR principles intend to be embedded in the project. We believe some of the questions posed in the Discussion Paper are being rushed and cannot be sufficiently answered until significant consultation with communities has been completed, with appropriate timeframes, communication and platforms for providing feedback.
Therefore, our submission is structured in the following way:
- Introduction and background
- Key justice reinvestment principles and feedback
- Additional concerns
- Response to the Discussion Paper questions.