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Rethinking justice - one year on

A year has passed since Australian Red Cross published its Rethinking Justice report. So what has changed over the past twelve months?

Tuesday March 14, 2017

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A year ago, the Australian Red Cross called on all governments in Australia to put justice reinvestment at the centre of justice policy.

The 2016 'Rethinking Justice' report found the Australian justice system costs $4.4b per year and 40% of offenders return to prison within a year.

Put simply, the system does not work and does not make us safer.

When the report was published, imprisonment rates were at a 10-year high and around 38,000 people were in prison.

Since then, things have got worse. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting in that on the night of 30 June 2016, 38,845 offenders were in Australian jails. One third of those prisoners had not been sentenced.

The rates of incarceration, are not the only problem.

We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are 26 times more likely to be detained than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

The picture was even more bleak in the Northern Territory, where 97 per cent of youth detainees were Indigenous. Nationwide, Indigenous young people have consistently outnumbered non-Indigenous youth in every quarterly survey since March 2013.

The revelations from the Royal Commission into Northern Territory juvenile detention bring these shocking statistics to life. This is just more evidence the system isn't working. It's inhumane and also makes no economic sense.  

If Australia's imprisonment rate was reduced by just 2% a year, tax payers would save almost $2.3 billion over five years. This money could be reinvested in funding projects that address the issues that lead people to commit crimes in the first place. 

Australian Red Cross is doing its part.

For example, the Young Parents Program supports young parents to develop the confidence to care for their children, budget, find employment and set goals for the future - breaking the cycle of disadvantage that leads to prison.  

The Driver Training program is working with disadvantaged young people to gain their driver's licence and avoid being penalised for driving without a licence.  

Red Cross believes that while prisons are necessary, we ultimately want our communities to be safe and locking people up doesn't reduce crime.  

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