Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 14 February 2023
The Justice Reform Initiative today welcomed the Tasmanian Government’s decision to hold a parliamentary inquiry into adult and children’s imprisonment, highlighting the opportunity for Tasmania to lead the country in evidence-based criminal justice reforms that improve community safety and break cycles of justice system involvement.
The Legislative Council committee will investigate factors driving increases in Tasmania’s prisoner population and associated costs, the use of evidence-based strategies to reduce contact with the justice system and recidivism, and the provision of, and participation in, services for people in prison and leaving prison. It will also examine training and support initiatives for corrective service staff, improvements to the management and delivery of corrective services, and other related matters.
Justice Reform Initiative Executive Director Dr Mindy Sotiri called on all political parties and independents to support this important initiative.
“This is an opportunity for Tasmania to lead Australia by hearing the evidence on what actually works to prevent people coming into contact with the criminal justice system, and to act on that evidence with policies that build stronger and safer communities,” she said.
“For far too long, spending on Tasmania’s costly and ineffective prisons has been increasing, while health, housing, education and community-led programs which would address the drivers of incarceration have been inadequately resourced.
“This inquiry is an important step on the journey to fixing a broken system. Policymakers need to recognise that jailing is failing and that a different approach is needed to break the cycles of disadvantage and re-offending and build safer communities.”
Tasmania spent more than $100 million last year on prisons, an increase of 77% over the past decade. Over two-thirds (66.8%) of the people in prison in Tasmania have been in prison before and about half of people released from prison return there within two years.
“It’s time to stop the revolving door,” Dr Sotiri said. “The true cost of incarceration, and why we should be investing in proven alternatives to prison are evident in our unacceptable recidivism rates.
“This inquiry will highlight the proven strategies to reduce incarceration, alongside programs that have an evidence base and work to build pathways out of the justice system. It will highlight how Tasmanians can improve the opportunities for people who do get caught in a cycle of disadvantage and imprisonment to access alternative approaches that work – and then we need policymakers to act.
“We look forward to the submissions and evidence, particularly from people with lived experience who are best placed to provide some guidance to inform future policy direction. People adversely affected by crime must also be included to inform the discussion and to help ensure future policies result in fewer victims.
“We look forward to working with the Tasmanian Government and other stakeholders in building a better system that is genuinely based on evidence-based policy.”
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.