A failure to establish Closing the Gap justice targets means we lack a coordinated national response to the most pressing problem facing our criminal justice system – the shocking imprisonment rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
President of The Law Society of NSW Doug Humphreys urged the NSW and Federal Governments to take urgent action to Close the Gap by setting justice targets to reduce shameful disproportion in incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children.
"We have lost another opportunity in this year’s Closing the Gap report,” Mr Humphreys said. "However, we hope the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Indigenous incarceration will provide the necessary impetus for law reform to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders communities.”
Mr Humphreys said justice reinvestment necessarily began by improving outcomes for families, children and youth.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders families need community-based services that understand their needs,” he said.
"Of great concern is that legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are struggling to keep up with the criminal case loads and demand for care and protection assistance.
"Organisations must be equipped with the funding, training and resources to deliver services their communities need.”
Mr Humphreys said more culturally-appropriate early intervention and prevention programs could help to promote family stability along with more community-based sentencing options in the bush where they were needed most.
"Funding services for people with disabilities and mental illnesses, drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and support for people facing family violence makes better longer-term financial sense for the overall Australian community than spending more money on prison beds,” he said.
"We should be spending limited funds on the root causes of the problems that lead to incarceration rather than treating the symptoms by putting more people in goals.”
Some key statistics
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up 24 per cent or 3136 of the total 12989 adults in custody in NSW, as at December 2017.
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up 43.2 per cent or 117 of the total 271 children in custody in NSW, as at December 2017.
* NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders accounted for just under 27.5 per cent or 11307 of the total 41,202 Australian prisoner population, as at June 30, 2017.
• The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders prisoners rose 7 per cent or by 711 prisoners between June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
* Australian Bureau of Statistics
The Law Society of NSW, Marianna Papadakis T: 02 9926 0288 | M: 0413 440 699 | email@example.com
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