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About us

The Justice Reform Initiative is an alliance of people who share long-standing professional experience, lived experience and/or expert knowledge of the justice system, who are further supported by a movement of Australians of goodwill from across the country and across the political spectrum.

We believe jailing is failing and that there is an urgent need to reduce the number of people in Australian prisons. We believe that the over-use of prisons is fundamentally harmful to those in prison, their family and friends, and the broader community.

We believe that prisons are ineffective as a deterrent, ineffective at reducing crime, and ineffective at addressing the drivers of criminal justice system involvement.

We believe that the over-use of incarceration is a waste of human potential and a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

The evidence shows that the majority of people entering prison usually arrive there because of an underpinning cycle of disadvantage and that prison both exacerbates and entrenches a broader cycle of disadvantage, which needs to be broken.

We believe the moment has come for change, with a combination of political, economic and social forces coalescing to create an opportunity to genuinely challenge and respond to our overreliance on incarceration – and offer up an alternative vision.

Our approach

We seek to build on: the emergence of a powerful network of advocates in Australia; green shoots of cross-party support for change; a strong precedent for cross-party support in the United States; and a large and compelling evidence base outlining how to build alternatives to incarceration and pathways out of the prison system. We recognise the opportunity emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic as governments confront the need to address rising debt with more economically efficient approaches.

We value strong working relationships with other advocates for change. Our campaign seeks to bring together organisations and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum and the broader public to build the conversation in Australia around how jailing is failing. We seek to draw on the best evidence, both locally and internationally, to drive the multiple legislative, policy, social and health service reforms that are needed to give historically over-incarcerated populations opportunities to thrive in the community.

Who we support

We respectfully acknowledge and support the current and longstanding efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to reduce the numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated in Australia and, importantly, the leadership role which Indigenous-led organisations such as Change the Record continue to play on this issue. We also acknowledge the work of many other individuals and organisations seeking change, such as those focused on the rate of imprisonment for women, people with mental health issues, people with disability and others.

Our strategic plan

You can download our strategic plan here.

Our supporters

The Justice Reform Initiative is supported by the Paul Ramsay Foundation which is  committed to breaking cycles of disadvantage in Australia.

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