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Media Release: Curfews don’t reduce crime – it’s time for an evidence based approach

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 28 March 2024

The Justice Reform Initiative has called for the NT and Commonwealth governments to urgently rethink their approach to recent crime in Alice Springs, warning that a two-week curfew for children will not improve community safety or address the drivers of contact with the justice system.

Executive director Dr Mindy Sotiri said research clearly showed that curfews were ineffective in reducing crime, urging the government to take an evidence-based approach instead of reaching for punitive quick fixes.

“While we cannot excuse crime or minimise its impact on victims, rushing to band-aid solutions usually causes more harm than good,” she said.

“A curfew won't meaningfully affect what's happening in the lives of children who are out at night in Alice Springs, but is more likely to put them in contact with police and pull them deeper into the criminal justice system with lifelong repercussions.

“Furthermore, as NAAJA has pointed out, this response is particularly misguided if it is intended to prevent events like that outside the Todd Tavern this week, as that incident is understood to have occurred during the daytime and primarily involved adults.

“Residents of Alice Springs have a right to feel safe, as do all Australians - but we need to follow the evidence for what will actually work to improve community safety. We need policymakers and police to work with Aboriginal leaders and support community-led organisations working on the frontline, as the evidence shows this is what actually makes a difference.

“If there is going to be federal involvement, it needs to be around resourcing of community-led responses - not punitive crackdowns and riot police. The Northern Territory has been crying out for greater investment to address the drivers of disadvantage and the drivers of criminal justice system involvement for years. While recent announcements around housing and education are positive, we need to significantly scale up the level of investment so that we aren’t having the same problems and the same conversations in another five, 10 or 20 years.”

Dr Sotiri pointed to the strong evidence base for alternatives outside the traditional punitive approach, including early intervention and prevention programs that reduce offending among at-risk populations by 50% and First Nations place-based approaches which have seen significant reductions in crime, criminal justice system and youth justice contact and significant cost-savings.

The Justice Reform Initiative has previously called on the NT Government, in partnership with the Federal Government, to establish a $300 million Breaking the Cycle Fund over four years to boost community-led organisations and projects that are successfully breaking the cycle of incarceration.

About the Justice Reform Initiative

The Justice Reform Initiative is a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 120 of our most eminent Australians, including two former Governors-General, former Members of Parliament from all sides of politics, academics, respected Aboriginal leaders, senior former judges, including High Court judges, and others who have added their voices to end Australia’s dangerously high reliance on jails. 

The Initiative is calling for governments around Australia to move away from an entrenched reliance on incarceration as the mainstay of the criminal justice system and adopt an evidence-based approach to deliver better results for taxpayers, communities and people in the criminal justice system.

Media contact:  Pia Akerman 0412 346 746


The Initiative respectfully acknowledges and supports 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 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.

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