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Media Release: Let the bulldozer have it – pushing women into Don Dale not the answer to overcrowding

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 20 July 2023

The NT Government’s consideration of converting the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre into a women’s prison is misguided and a waste of taxpayer money that will lead to worse results for incarcerated women and their communities.

The Justice Reform Initiative – a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 120 eminent Australians including former premiers and attorneys-general, judges, prosecutors, youth justice experts and respected Aboriginal leaders – said the option floated by Corrections Commissioner Matthew Varley did not stand up as a solution for current overcrowding.

“Don Dale is not fit for children, it is not fit for women, it is not fit for humans of any kind,” said Dr Mindy Sotiri, Executive Director of the Justice Reform Initiative. “A decade ago, Mr Varley’s predecessor said it was ‘only fit for a bulldozer’ – and nothing has changed.

“There are simply too many people being pushed into the Territory’s prisons – men, women and children. We are shuffling deckchairs on the Titanic if we continue to move people around from one overcrowded and unfit facility to another.

“New prisons and recycled prisons are not the answer. There is overwhelming evidence to show that prison not only fails to reduce crime and address the complex drivers behind it, but increases the likelihood of reoffending, ultimately failing to make the community safer.

“We cannot imprison our way to a safer society, and spending more money to patch up prisons is a short-sighted approach.

“Evidence shows that investing in alternatives to incarceration delivers better results. The Northern Territory would be far better served by investment in early intervention, early prevention, diversion, and evidence-based alternatives outside of the justice system.

“Territorians deserve a smarter approach which invests in people, not prisons, to deliver real results for community safety.”  

The Justice Reform Initiative recently released a report examining the strong evidence base for alternatives to incarceration in the NT, including existing programs which are delivering significant results in reducing reoffending.

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


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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