‘Justice reinvestment’

13.3     There is no single accepted definition of the term ‘justice reinvestment’.[1] It is, however, generally understood to represent a form of economic modelling whereby resources are redirected from punitive responses to crime into preventative strategies and early diversion away from the criminal justice system in areas with high crime rates. According to the report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Experience of Law Enforcement and Justice Services:

justice reinvestment essentially refers to a policy approach to criminal justice spending, whereby funds ordinarily spent on keeping individuals incarcerated, are diverted to the development of programs and services that aim to address the underlying causes of criminal behaviour in communities that have high levels of incarceration.[2]

13.4     Mission Australia, in their submission to the Inquiry on the value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia, described some of the principles that underpin justice reinvestment: ‘The rationale for justice reinvestment is that diverting human and financial resources to disadvantaged communities and vulnerable people to address the underlying causes of crime will produce better value for money and long term economic benefits.’[3]

13.5     In their submission to the same inquiry, the Law Council of Australia characterised justice reinvestment as preventative criminal justice strategies that are both evidence-based and collaborative:

Justice reinvestment relies heavily on interactions between agencies at both the state and local level. It also has a significant community-focus, seeking ‘community-level solutions to community-level problems’. It is these aspects of justice reinvestment, along with its evidence-based approach and focus on addressing and preventing the underlying causes of crime such as unemployment and drug and alcohol abuse, that have given rise to the growing support for justice reinvestment in recent years throughout the world.[4]

13.6     The 2016 publication, Justice Reinvestment: Winding Back Imprisonment, reiterated these points, and referred to the importance of ‘bottom-up’ approaches to public policy developments. It stated that a ‘top-down’ approach loses much of the democratic value and potential of justice reinvestment initiatives, and stressed the importance of approaches that are ‘community’ and ‘place-based’.[5]