The value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia

A justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia would provide a valuable framework to prevent crime and promote community safety, reduce imprisonment rates and deliver associated social and economic benefits for the broad community. In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry, the HRLC has explained how addressing the underlying causes of crime is the most effective and cost efficient way to prevent crime, reduce reoffending and make our communities safer.

“A justice reinvestment approach involves re-directing government money spent on prisons towards community-based initiatives aimed at addressing the underlying causes of crime,” said the HRLC’s Ben Schokman, “Ultimately, prison is an ineffective, harmful and extremely expensive way to combat crime.”

Imprisonment rates around Australia are increasing, largely as a result of tougher ‘law and order’ policies adopted by governments. This increase also has associated social and economic costs.

However, research indicates that early intervention programs targeting at-risk children and youth, providing stable housing and employment opportunities, and court sentencing programs that address the underlying causes of crime are far more effective at reducing crime and promoting community safety.

“Individuals who come into contact with the criminal justice system are highly likely to experience multiple characteristics of severe disadvantage. A lock them up and throw away the key approach does not address the causes of crime, is not an effective deterrent, and actually increases the likelihood of people reoffending after release,” said Mr Schokman.

“At an annual cost to the taxpayer of around $90,000 per prisoner, re-directing just a portion of that spending to provide better education and health systems would have significant community benefits,

“As a community, we therefore have a vested interest in increasing government spending to address the underlying causes of crime. Not only does this approach reduce crime rates, it also has considerable economic benefits by obviating the need for significant government spending on prisons,” said Mr Schokman.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry is available here.