Skip navigation

Media Release: The NT needs a new approach, not new prisons

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 19 April 2024

The Northern Territory Government’s move to establish two new women’s prisons is an expensive step in the wrong direction, with no evidentiary basis to show that imprisoning more women will lead to safer or stronger communities.

The Justice Reform Initiative today warned that the announcement of more than $57 million to fund the new prisons in Alice Springs and Darwin would likely divert funding from community-led solutions that actually stop people entering the criminal justice system.

“The Attorney-General calls this a common-sense approach, but there is no sense in spending millions of dollars to prop up broken infrastructure in a failed system,” said executive director Dr Mindy Sotiri.

“We know prisons don’t work. All the evidence shows us that locking people up does not make safer communities, it does the opposite and makes future offending more likely.

“Putting more women into prison has lifelong consequences for them, their families and communities. While the current facilities are not up to standard, building new prison beds is not the answer. Women should be in the community, getting the support they need through evidence-based, grassroots programs and services that make a real difference to their lives.

“If we are serious about responding to over-crowding, we need to address the drivers of over-crowding. Moving people around an over-crowded system and building new beds is an incredibly expensive, short-term response that will not make the community safer. If the government is putting aside tens of millions for prisons, how much is it investing in the programs that offer another road to rehabilitation and show better results?

“For example, the evidence shows that there are community-led bail support programs that reduce offending and increase compliance with bail conditions. There are First Nations-place based programs that dramatically reduce crime. There are post-release programs that reduce offending by close to 70%. There are early intervention programs that reduce crime at a population level by 50%. There are alternative first responder models that reduce contact with the justice system.

“While there are several programs like this in the NT achieving remarkable outcomes on a small scale, these programs have been chronically under-resourced and under-valued, meaning they are prevented from making the kind of systemic difference the NT needs to turn around its over-reliance on incarceration.  

“This sudden move to repurpose health facilities to squeeze in more prison beds highlights the lack of any long-term vision or strategy to tackle the deep-rooted issues around justice and safety in the NT. Territorians deserve to have smart policies based on evidence, not ad hoc announcements to patch a broken system.”

About the Justice Reform Initiative

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.

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.

Continue Reading

Read More