Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 13 October 2022
The Justice Reform Initiative has urged the ACT government to stay focused on evidence-based criminal justice policies as it considers whether harsher penalties are required for dangerous driving offences.
In a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety, currently examining dangerous driving amid calls for legislative reform, the initiative calls for policymakers to renew their focus on programs that encourage safer driving, particularly among young men, instead of prison terms which would most likely fail to reduce offending behaviour.
Executive Director of the Justice Reform Initiative Dr Mindy Sotiri said the committee needed to balance the need for punitive measures with the strong evidence base which shows imprisonment has a broader impact on individuals and community which often led to more crime – not less.
“While the sudden loss of a loved one causes immense pain for family and friends, it can also spur a sense of collective outrage,” Dr Sotiri said. “This outrage drives a need to find answers to reasonable questions like how did this happen, and how can we ‘fix’ the system to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Although we often turn to prison as a policy response when horrific things happen, we need to be very thoughtful about what it is we are trying to achieve and look at the evidence around what sort of an impact prison has on our community. The evidence shows that ‘tough on crime’ simply doesn’t work – we need to be smart on crime.
“We need a range of measures that will better support and educate ACT drivers, to minimise dangerous driving by addressing the underlying causes, particularly substance abuse.
“Increasing prison sentences is not the answer to the problem of dangerous driving. Prison fails when it comes to controlling crime - half of the people leaving prison return within two years of their release.
“This failed approach comes at enormous cost to taxpayers, as well as those who are incarcerated – often setting in place a cycle of disadvantage and reimprisonment which is enormously difficult to break without strong support services and programs.
“Alarm bells should be ringing for any policymakers who rush to ‘toughen’ laws as this often has unintended consequences. For example, when the Victorian government restricted access to bail following the Bourke St rampage that killed six people, lawmakers presumably didn’t intend to lock away more women, many of them vulnerable and with no prior prison history, for offences for which they had not yet been convicted. Yet this is what has happened.”
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.
For more information and a list of patrons of the Justice Reform Initiative visit https://www.justicereforminitiative.org.au/.
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.