Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 17 April 2023
The weekend incident at Casuarina Prison, involving children transferred from Banksia Hill, highlights once again the failures of incarceration in Western Australia and the need for an evidence-based approach to reform.
The Justice Reform Initiative’s Executive Director Dr Mindy Sotiri said such incidents showed the danger of the existing policy reliance on incarceration which fails to address the drivers of crime or adequately respond to the underlying issues for people who are sent to prison.
“Everybody deserves to be safe at work. However, we need to take a clear-eyed look at what is happening here for children who are imprisoned,” Dr Sotiri said.
“This unacceptable behaviour does not emerge from a vacuum. We need to understand the context in which it is occurring.
“All of the evidence tells us that locking up children who often have disabilities in punitive prison conditions, makes it more likely, not less likely, that reoffending will occur.
“Jailing is failing these children, it is failing the people who are paid to supervise them, and it is failing all West Australians.
“We cannot punish our way to a safer community. Locking people up does not address the drivers of crime – it entrenches them, creating a ‘revolving door’ in and out of the criminal justice system.
“We need to do the hard work to prevent people from coming into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place, and to divert people from incarceration with evidence-based alternatives.
“We need a smarter approach to youth justice. We know from the landmark Telethon Kids Institute study that the overwhelming majority of children at Banksia Hill have some form of neuro-disability, with 9 out of 10 showing signs of neurodevelopmental disorder at the time of the research.
“Children need care and support, not being locked for hours or days on end which just causes further trauma and increases the likelihood of a life deeply intwined with the criminal justice system.”
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.
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.