10 July 2017

An increase in imprisonment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples shows the justice system is failing to respond to the key drivers causes of offending; social disadvantage.

The Law Society of NSW has long advocated for a greater use of community-based alternatives to incarceration and more investment in preventative measures to reduce record high imprisonment numbers.

Unfortunately, measures such as Intensive Corrections Orders, are rarely given for the sorts of offences that have driven a recent rise in Indigenous incarceration.

The Law Society of NSW President Pauline Wright said reforms were urgently needed to allow for a greater use of ICOs and home detention, where appropriate, particularly in regional and remote areas.

"Many Indigenous people are spending short periods in jail needlessly, putting them at risk and doing nothing for deterrence," Ms Wright said.

"We need to increase engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to develop more culturally appropriate support for Indigenous offenders and victims."

Ms Wright said the NSW Government should remove the majority of offences that currently exclude an offender from ICOs.

The maximum length of ICOs and home detention should be extended from two to three years and the range of activities that satisfy the community service work attached to an ICO should be broadened to help integrate offenders back into the community.

The Law Society supports the establishment of Koori Courts across NSW for adults as well as children and calls on the NSW Government to expand NSW Drug Courts to more locations, Ms Wright said.

"More drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and resources for diversionary and early intervention programs could put people on a better path," Ms Wright said.

"Drug Courts are proven to be more effective at reducing crime than imprisonment. They also mean the families of addicted offenders can look forward to a brighter future with their loved ones while the community benefits from longer-term savings to the health and justice systems.

"The experience of the Koori Court trialled for children in Parramatta has been a real success story and we would like to see that model expanded state-wide.  It is time to see a similar model trialled for Indigenous adults."

Media Contact: Marianna Papadakis 02 9926 0288 or 0413 440 or media@lawsociety.com.au

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