The over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system is one of the most urgent human rights issues facing Australia, says the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda.
‘I find it shocking that we do better at keeping Aboriginal people in prison than in school,’ Mr Gooda said
‘The Aboriginal re-imprisonment rate is actually higher than the Aboriginal school retention rate.
‘Nationally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australians.
‘About half of the young people in juvenile detention are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
‘And it is simply unacceptable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are hospitalised for family violence-related assault at 31 times the rate of non-Indigenous women.’
The Commissioner’s 2014 Social Justice and Native Title Report urges governments to adopt ‘justice reinvestment’ as a way to reduce the Indigenous prison population and divert young people from the criminal justice system.
The Commissioner says a portion of funds earmarked for prisons should be reinvested in prevention and treatment programs that address the underlying causes of crime.
‘Governments have not yet adopted justice reinvestment in Australia. However, at the community level, we are seeing some very exciting work about what justice reinvestment could look like in Australia.
‘This is particularly true for the Bourke justice reinvestment project that I have been involved in, and for an innovative community research project in Cowra.
‘All sides of politics need to put aside populist “tough on crime” rhetoric and punitive policies in favour of an economically, socially and morally responsible approach to criminal justice issues.’