25 September 2023

Watchdog finds justice system lacks justice

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The Australian Human Rights Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has declared the Australian criminal justice system to be in crisis.

The Commissioner, June Oscar (pictured) said the prison population was skyrocketing; rehabilitation programs and training programs were lacking; there were barely any supports to reintegrate prisoners into society, and there were limited diversionary options, all of which added up to a failing justice system.

“Australians should all be questioning what has happened to our national social supports, for incarceration to become so dominant in our lives,” Ms Oscar said.

“From 1997 to 2017 there has been a 133 per cent increase in Australia’s prison population, with Indigenous Australians hugely over-represented.”

She said Indigenous women made up two per cent of Australia’s female population and yet were 34 per cent of the women behind bars, indicating a broken system.

Ms Oscar said there was a desperate need for investment in community diversionary options to provide an alternative to short custodial sentences.

“The Australian Law Reform Commission’s Pathway to Justice report outlined several Indigenous-specific diversionary options such as Justice Reinvestment, and models that provide for flexible and culturally appropriate sentences like the Koori Courts in Victoria and NSW and the Victorian Community Correction Order regime,” she said.

“To make these options real we need the concerted effort of all Governments to translate the on-the-ground evidence into policy, backed by an implementation plan, serious budget allocations, and justice targets for all jurisdictions.”

Ms Oscar’s full speech to the Empowering Women, Changing Lives annual breakfast can be accessed at this PS News link.

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