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Media Release: NSW Government’s move to tighten bail laws won’t keep women safe

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 13 May 2024

Plans to tighten bail laws to keep more people in prison in NSW while they await trial on family and domestic violence charges will not work to keep women and families safe in the long term.

While there is undoubtedly an urgent need for measures to help keep women safe in NSW, politicised law reform, particularly when it results in sending more people to prison, can cause more harm than good.

The Justice Reform Initiative’s Executive Director Dr Mindy Sotiri said the NSW Government needed to recognise the overarching failure of imprisonment as a solution to crime prevention.

“There is a clear need for urgent measures to keep women and families safe in NSW – both in the short and longer term. But it is difficult to see how the proposed changes to bail will either improve women’s safety or go deeper to address the social drivers of domestic and family violence,” Dr Sotiri said.

“While measures to keep more people in prison might serve to address risk in the short term pre-trial, it does nothing to address the long-term risk to women’s safety and can potentially cause more harm than good. We know that prison increases the risk of future offending and often entrenches underlying issues by worsening employment prospects, health outcomes, and cutting people off from their community.

“The remand population in NSW has increased by 75% over the last decade. Nearly 40% of people in prison in NSW are there on remand, and this move will drive those numbers higher without any evidence to show that it will be effective in preventing crime. To the contrary, all the evidence shows that tightening bail laws does little to address offending behaviour and instead increases the likelihood of future offending.

Dr Sotiri urged the NSW government to refocus its attention on supporting frontline service providers and services that were working to address the root causes of violent behaviour and consider measures outside of imprisonment to ensure women’s safety, such as electronic monitoring.

Dr Sotiri cautioned that rushed changes to bail laws can have further unintended consequences if they aren’t carefully focussed and considered. 

“Similar tightening of bail in Victoria, while well-intentioned, led to a range of damaging consequences, driving up women’s incarceration and disproportionately impacting First Nations women,” Dr Sotiri said.

“The NSW Government must learn from those mistakes and ensure any changes to bail to address family and domestic violence do not have unintended impact on vulnerable populations.

“The Government must also understand that law reform is only ever a small part of shifting a structural and social problem and any changes to legislation must be balanced with greater and targeted investment in bail support services, community programs and First Nations-led initiatives that work to address offending behaviours – and keep women and families safe – in the long term.”

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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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