The Australian Greens have called for effective justice reinvestment to become a key initiative in reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s prisons.
In acknowledging the passing of 20 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues has today called for a concerted effort to lower the disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people, particularly youth, in custody.
“We need to send a clear message that enough is enough,” said Senator Siewert.
“Since the tabling of the report of the Royal Commission in 1991 we have seen 269 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die in custody – that’s nearly one in five of all custodial deaths.
“Its time to ensure that any person in custody in Australia – whether they are a white or Aboriginal citizen or an asylum seeker – can be sure they are safe, are treated with care and respect and above all, justice.
“It is important that we act on the underlying causes of this overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody, including reducing the disadvantage in employment, education and health. Justice reinvestment is an important part of this process.
“Justice Reinvestment is about diverting a proportion of the money that we expect to go into locking people up and re-targeting it to provide services in at-risk communities to address the underlying causes of crime.
“We need to be directing more resources into diversionary and rehab programs, as well as addressing health, education and housing.
“Twenty years on, little has changed, and it is now imperative that the findings of the Royal Commission are comprehensively implemented.
“While State and Territory governments and departments have a key role to play in implementing change in their prisons and justice systems, the Commonwealth must provide leadership and funding to drive this change,” concluded Senator Siewert.