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Drug and alcohol treatments to reduce crime, boost health

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 4 Feb 2013

The Australian Greens have backed calls to divert non-violent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders with substance use problems into rehabilitation or treatment programs in place of prison terms.

 "We need Federal leadership for a new approach across the country to fix what is clearly a very broken system," said Australian Greens spokesperson on legal affairs, Senator Penny Wright.

"We must address the underlying causes of disadvantage, which mean many Aboriginal people do not have the same opportunities and support as other Australians.

"Diversion programs allow people to be treated appropriately when they first enter the justice system. The longer they're in the system and the worse their drug and alcohol problems are, the more likely they are to be involved in serious offences."

Senator Wright is currently chairing a Senate references committee into Justice Reinvestment, an approach which diverts money from prisons to invest in strengthening communities to reduce crime occurring in the first place.

"Today's research released by Deloitte Access Economics shows how greatly a Justice Reinvestment approach is needed and I hope this will trigger bipartisan support to truly address the problems in our current criminal justice system," Senator Wright said.

Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health has also renewed calls for investment in drug and alcohol treatment for Aboriginal offenders, saying that treatment and rehabilitation programs were essential for addressing the underlying factors which lead to involvement with the criminal justice system.

"We have unacceptably high Aboriginal imprisonment rates in Australia, continuing to believe that just building more prisons will address this problem makes no sense. Improving rehabilitation and support services will actually improve life outcomes and saves the system money.

"Without addressing these underlying problems, people will continue to cycle in and out of the criminal justice system. The occurrence of reoffending shows us that the current approach isn't working.

"When evidence based, collaborative approaches to issues such as these are taken, the results for individuals and communities can be very strong. 

"Diverting non-violent offenders into treatment rather than prison uses health and social evidence to deliver better outcomes for the individual and their community," Senator Siewert concluded.

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