4.1 Justice reinvestment involves the redirection of resources from the criminal justice system into local communities that have a high concentration of incarceration and contact with the criminal justice system. Incarceration is expensive: the annual cost per prisoner of providing corrective services in 2015–16 was $103,295, and it has been estimated that the total justice system costs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration in 2016 were $3.9 billion. A justice reinvestment approach suggests that resources are better directed—and indeed savings will be made—by reinvesting a portion of this expenditure to address the causes of offending in places where there is a high concentration of offenders.
4.2 Justice reinvestment uses place-based, community-led initiatives to address offending and incarceration, using a distinct data-driven methodology to inform strategies for reform. There has been strong support in Australia for taking a justice reinvestment approach to addressing the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration over a number of years, and justice reinvestment has been used overseas, particularly in some parts of the United States, to reduce criminal justice spending and to strengthen communities.
4.3 Justice reinvestment holds particular promise in addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration for at least two reasons. First, it has long been recognised that the key drivers of incarceration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are external to the justice system, and justice reinvestment involves a commitment to invest in ‘front-end’ strategies to prevent criminalisation. Second, justice reinvestment, as a place-based approach, emphasises working in partnership with communities to develop and implement reforms, and thus accords with evidence that effective policy change to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage requires partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
4.4 The implementation of justice reinvestment requires significant technical expertise. To provide such expertise, the ALRC recommends that Commonwealth, state and territory governments should support the establishment of an independent justice reinvestment body to promote the reinvestment of resources from the criminal justice system to local community development initiatives to address the drivers of crime and incarceration, and to provide expertise in the methodology of justice reinvestment. While justice reinvestment should remain community-led, a national body with expertise in justice reinvestment methodology could assist in providing technical assistance to local sites wishing to implement justice reinvestment.
4.5 The body should be a national one because justice reinvestment involves a holistic approach to the drivers of incarceration, which extend beyond justice-related drivers to community and social drivers of offending. These policy priorities extend across all levels of government.
4.6 The ALRC envisages the justice reinvestment body’s role to be limited: principally, to providing technical assistance in the implementation of a justice reinvestment approach. It would not have the authority to impose reinvestment plans, nor to direct the allocation of resources. Therefore, the ALRC further recommends that Commonwealth state and territory governments support place-based justice reinvestment initiatives, through resourcing, facilitating access to data, and facilitating participation by and coordination between relevant government departments.
Based on a daily cost per prisoner per day of $283: Productivity Commission, Report on Government Services 2017, Volume C: Justice (Produced for the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, 2017) 8.19.
PwC’s Indigenous Consulting, Indigenous Incarceration: Unlock the Facts (2017) 27.