Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has welcomed moves by the WA government towards a Justice Reinvestment approach to the criminal justice system.
Commissioner Gooda said he was heartened by reports in the West Australian media over the last few days that WA Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis was prepared to act on recently released data identifying the local government areas from where the highest rates of prison admissions originated in the 2011-2012 period.
“By agreeing to consider this data, the WA government is effectively opening its mindset to the already tried and tested crime prevention strategy, Justice Reinvestment, which is gradually gaining ground around the country,” Mr Gooda said.
“Adopting an approach that shifts money from the prison system to those communities with high crime rates in a bid to address the underlying causes of crime, such as drug and alcohol dependency, unemployment and poor educational opportunities, not only makes sound fiscal sense but makes logical sense.
“And no group is possibly in greater need of a shift in criminal justice strategies than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who continue to be incarcerated at alarmingly high rates in WA and right around the country,” he said.
“If the WA government continues down a path, as Mr Francis intimated, of spending money on the programs needed to keep people out of prison rather than on building new prisons and perpetuating expenditure estimated at costing around $600 per day to keep a young person behind bars, then I reckon the WA government is on track to strengthening communities and preventing crime from happening in the first place.
“This is exactly what the justice reinvestment approach is all about and I believe it holds the key to keeping people out of prison,” he said.
Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell also welcomed the shift in thinking.
“This kind of approach also represents a much better investment in our children, by diverting them from the criminal justice system in the first place,” Ms Mitchell said.
“I congratulate the WA government for opening its mind to strategies with the potential to change individual lives and save the community money at the same time as making communities safer.
“Such win-win strategies don’t come along that often,” she said.
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Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597