Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 26 April 2021
Tasmanian politicians have been urged to collaborate and commit to reforming the state’s archaic criminal justice system on the eve of the election, amid compelling evidence that shows building a new prison will be a step in the wrong direction at a cost of millions to taxpayers.
A report released by the Justice Reform Initiative today details how an overreliance on incarceration has reinforced a ‘revolving door’ for those who get caught in the justice system, with prisons costing Tasmanians almost $94 million a year despite evidence that there are more effective ways to reduce reoffending rates.
High-profile figures on both sides of politics, as well as the country’s most preeminent legal and judicial figures and experts, are calling on all Tasmanian candidates to acknowledge jailing is failing – entrenching cycles of disadvantage in Tasmania while devouring resources which could be spent on diversionary programs and effective community-based interventions which deliver better outcomes in terms of community safety.
The report shows that successive state governments have relied too heavily on incarceration as a default
response to both disadvantage and offending:
- The number of people in Tasmanian prisons has exploded by nearly 40% over the past decade;
- Tasmania is the state with the highest per capita prison costs in the country, with each prisoner costing the state $122,143.60 per person, per year;
- Two-thirds of people in prison in Tasmania have been to prison before – the highest level in more than a decade and above the national average;
- 58% of young people in Tasmania return to prison less than a year after being released;
- The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate in Tasmania is currently more than five times the non-Indigenous imprisonment rate, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prison population has increased by 97% since 2010;
- More than half the people entering Tasmanian prisons have a history of mental health conditions and/or report living with a disability.
Justice Reform Initiative chair Robert Tickner AO called on all candidates to examine the evidence and pledge to work collaboratively to implement an evidence-based criminal justice system for all Tasmanians.
“We can’t keep making the same mistakes when all the evidence and all the research so clearly shows that jailing is failing Tasmanians,” he said. “A justice system so heavily focused on being ‘tough on crime’ rather than smart on crime is a sad throwback to the convict era.
“There are far too many people in our prisons who shouldn’t be there – people with mental health issues and disability, women who are victims of domestic violence, young people who have grown up in appalling circumstances of neglect and abuse.
“We need to build up our community-based support services and diversion programs to get these lives back on track, not build more cells and lock more people up.
“Australia is so far behind the rest of the world on this – Tasmania jails its citizens at a greater rate than comparable jurisdictions across Western Europe and Canada. Tasmanians have the opportunity at this election to lead the country and say ‘Enough is enough.’”
The Justice Reform Initiative is a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 100 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.
Our Tasmanian patrons include:
- Greg Barns SC, barrister, commentator and spokesperson on criminal justice for the Australian Lawyers Alliance
- The Honourable Lara Giddings, former Premier and Attorney-General of Tasmania
- Adjunct Associate Professor Terese Henning, Former Director of the Tasmania Law Reform Institute
- Christine Milne AO, former Senator for Tasmania, Leader of the Australian Greens and current Global Greens Ambassador
- The Rt Honourable Lord Mayor of Hobart, Councillor Anna Reynolds
- Professor Rob White FASSA FANZSOC, Distinguished Professor of Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania
- The Honourable Jim Wilkinson, former President, Tasmanian Legislative Council, President of the Tasmanian Football Board and former partner of the law firm Wallace Wilkinson & Webster
Media opportunity: Lara Giddings, Jim Wilkinson and Christine Milne will be available on the lawns outside Parliament at 10am.
Robert Tickner is available for telephone interviews today.
Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746 www.justicereforminitiative.org.au
The Justice Reform Initiative deeply appreciates the support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation.
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 such as Change the Record continue to play on this issue.