Jesuit Social Services recently made a submission to the Inquiry into Victoria’s Criminal Justice System undertaken by the Legislative Council’s Legal and Social Issues Committee.
Victoria’s growing prison population continues to be of great concern to Jesuit Social Services, as does the bi-partisan approach to building more youth justice facilities and prisons rather than investing in alternatives.
This has seen unintended consequences for those who have become entrenched in the justice system. Further, it has led to a dramatic increase in government spending and had significant impacts on the environment.
The Inquiry comes at a critical time during the COVID-19 pandemic where there is an opportunity to build back better rather than return to ‘business as usual’. The development of initiatives such as the Maribyrnong Community Residential Facility established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to house men exiting prison, demonstrates that alternative ways of operating are possible.
The recommendations included in our submission provide a framework for reform across both the youth and adult justice systems. They are grounded in the knowledge, expertise and experiences of Jesuit Social Services’ program staff and participants, as well as academic research and evidence.
The need for legislative reform, including the repealing of regressive legislation, is a key focus of this submission. We know that years of legislative amendments that have made it harder to get bail, limited access to parole, and removed a series of non-custodial options have significantly increased the number of people who are incarcerated.
We also emphasise the need for Victoria’s adult and youth justice systems to be premised on a clear vision underpinned by principles of prevention, early intervention and restorative justice to enable decisions around justice policy not to be driven by politics, but by evidence and best practice.