How does justice reinvestment work?

4.25     Justice reinvestment involves four main stages:

  • ‘Justice mapping’: analysing criminal justice data and cross-referencing this against indicators of disadvantage and available services;
  • developing options for reducing offending and generating savings;
  • implementing reforms, quantifying savings and reinvesting in communities (‘reinvestment’ may also take the form of initial funding in anticipation of future savings); and
  • monitoring and evaluation.[32]

4.26     Justice reinvestment is distinguished by its emphasis on using data to analyse the drivers of contact with the criminal justice system. In the US, for example, this form of data mapping identified so-called ‘million-dollar blocks’:

The United States currently has more than 2 million people locked up in jails and prisons. A disproportionate number of them come from a very few neighborhoods in the country’s biggest cities. In many places the concentration is so dense that states are spending in excess of a million dollars a year to incarcerate the residents of single city blocks.[33]

4.27     While not a justice reinvestment initiative, research commissioned by Jesuit Social Services and Catholic Social Services Australia provides an example of the mapping of disadvantage in Australia. The Dropping Off the Edge project analysed the extent to which a number of indicators of social disadvantage, such as poverty, poor health, disabilities, and low educational attainment are concentrated geographically in Australia.[34] It found that

complex and entrenched disadvantage continues to be experienced by a small but persistent number of locations in each state and territory across Australia. These communities experience a weblike structure of disadvantage, with significant problems including unemployment, a lack of affordable and safe housing, low educational attainment, and poor quality infrastructure and services.[35]

4.28     It also found a link between this locational disadvantage and crime, with 6% of postcodes in Victoria accounting for half of all prison admissions. The project noted that this highlighted ‘the often localised nature of crime, as well as the role of disadvantage as an underlying cause of offending’.[36]

4.29     The relevant criminal justice data to be analysed, in the US context, has been identified as coming from ‘all agencies that influence the criminal justice system, including arresting agencies, the jail, pretrial services, the court system, and community supervision agencies’.[37]

4.30     Justice mapping brings together information about the criminal justice system with other measures of wellbeing in a community, such as employment rates and health and education levels. Other relevant information may include government service provision, as well as identifying potential community ‘assets’ in a particular area, such as social support and health services.[38] This stage of justice reinvestment also involves an analysis of existing spending related to contact with the criminal justice system.[39]

4.31     When the drivers of contact with the criminal justice system have been identified, the next stage of justice reinvestment involves identifying options for reform to address these issues. In the US, these options have principally concentrated on criminal justice reforms. However, they may also include front-end or preventative strategies such as programs and services addressing poverty, education, housing and health.[40] Once strategies have been chosen, they are implemented, and subject to monitoring and evaluation.