Justice Reinvestment is about smarter public spending to increase community wellbeing
Research shows that smart investment which tackles the causes of crime can be cost effective. Justice reinvestment is a new approach that redirects money spent on prisons to community-based initiatives which aim to address the underlying causes of crime. It promises to cut crime and save money.
Our crime rate has been trending downwards over the last twenty years with a significant drop in the last two years. By 2012 the number of recorded offences was at its lowest since 1989, and the rate of recorded crime is the lowest since 1979. The rate of apprehensions of children and young people fell by 23 per cent between 2002 and 2011.
What hasn’t changed is the level of imprisonment. There were 8,600 in prison in 2012, and the same number in prison in 2013, despite a steadily lowering crime rate. The cost of keeping someone in prison for a year is estimated at between $91,000 and $95,000, depending on who you talk to. A significant reduction in imprisonment could result in savings which could be invested within high crime communities to target repeat offenders and reduce the number of repeat victims. Yet our investments often do more harm than good - in part because they're being made in the wrong places. Our prisons are full of people whose crimes could easily have been avoided if they'd had access to the support they needed while in the community. The government’s Better Public Service Plan does not have a specific goal to reduce the level of imprisonment. If it did, the savings could be reinvested to deliver a greater benefit, and improve community wellbeing.
Government needs Goal to Reduce Imprisonment - Press Release 17 May 2013
Download Professor Andrew Coyle's 2008 presentation on Justice Reinvestment
Justice Reinvestment - shifting resources to where they are most needed
Justice reinvestment (JR) , seeks to develop measures and policies to improve the prospects not just of individual cases but of particular places. JR focuses on those neighbourhoods that tend to send the greatest number of their residents to prison. These communities have the highest crime rates, the highest victimisation rates and are over-burdened with a range of social problems.
Currently, New Zealand has a number of 'million dollar blocks'. This is a term used to describe those areas where crime is most concentrated. In some neighbourhoods crime is so prevalent that the cost of sending the residents of a single street to prison exceeds a million dollars a year.
Read more about Million Dollar Blocks
By focussing funding on local community based initiatives, Justice Reinvestment aims to tackle the underlying problems that are driving crime and anti-social behaviour in these communities. This new approach to criminal justice gives local rather than central government the power to decide how money should be best spent to re-build social capital and produce safer local communities.
Download 'Manurewa Ripe for Justice Reinvestment'
Justice Reinvestment in Australia – a Response to Indigenous Over-Representation
One of the first advocates for Justice Reinvestment in Australia was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma. At a Conference in Sydney in June 2009, he advocated for justice reinvestment as a response to the plight of the extremely high number of Aboriginal offenders living in poverty stricken and marginalised communities. The Australian Human Rights Commission also saw Justice Reinvestment as a potential solution to indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system and promoted the concept in Chapter Two of its Social Report in 2009. In the same year the Commonwealth government considered the concept of justice reinvestment in its report on Access to Justice.
Read about these early efforts at:
Justice Reinvestment in Australia
Recent Developments in Australia
Our Australian neighbours have taken a recent major initiative to reduce spending in prisons and reinvest in high crime communities. The Australian Justice Reinvestment Project (AJR Project) is a two year ARC Discovery project. The AJR Project will examine the characteristics of Justice Reinvestment (JR) programs used in the US and elsewhere which reduce spending on prisons and reinvest the savings in high crime communities, to reduce crime and build community services, and analyse whether such programs can be developed in the Australian context.
The Australian research team are optimistic about the promise of JR for reducing the numbers of people in prison. However, they consider that there is a danger that JR might be adopted in Australia without the kind of firm foundations that will maximise its chance of success. Because of this, the Project has two primary areas of focus:
A thorough examination of the theoretical foundations of JR.
The suitability of JR to the Australian penal context.
You can read more about the AJR Project at the Australian Justice Investment Website This website is the ‘go to’ place for researchers and others in the community interested in JR in Australia and (potentially) in New Zealand.
Download the latest AJR Project Newsletter
Chief Investigator (and New Zealander) David Brown recently travelled to NZ to present a paper entitled “Justice Reinvestment: Promise and Pitfalls” at the Justice Horizons Seminar, New Zealand Ministry of Justice, Wellington. His presentation discussed the promise and pitfalls of Justice Reinvestment strategies and considered the translation of such strategies into the Australian and New Zealand context. The event was coordinated by Rethinking Crime and Punishment.
In a recent article, David and others describe how the Justice Reinvestment model provides the opportunity to invest in community well-being by reallocating dollars from corrections budgets to finance education, housing, healthcare, and jobs in high-crime communities. Key distinguishing features of JR (including justice and asset mapping, budgetary devolution and localism, and the desirability of bipartisanship) are briefly outlined, followed by discussion of its recent emergence and application in the United States, and to a lesser extent in the United Kingdom. The prospects for the adoption of JR approaches in Australia are then considered, with particular reference to the high imprisonment rates of Indigenous people. If JR is to be promoted in the Australian context it is important that it be subject to critical scrutiny and therefore some of the key problems are briefly outlined, before a conclusion which emphasises the potential benefits of JR.
Download the article ‘The Promise of Justice Reinvestment’ here
JR involves advancing ‘fiscally-sound, data driven criminal justice policies to break the cycle of recidivism, avert prison expenditures and make communities safer’. (1) The key strategy is the quantification of savings and subsequent reinvestment in high-stakes neighbourhoods to which ‘the majority of people released from prisons and jails return’, by, for example, redeveloping ‘abandoned housing and better coordination of such services as substance abuse and mental health treatment, job training, and education’. (2)
JR realigns the incentives of the justice system so that it becomes in the business, residential and community interest to reduce prison populations’.(3) In the attempt to encourage the use of economic incentives to change public policy, JR is compatible with various tenets of neo-liberalism, while the emphasis on social cohesion and community building draws on traditional social democratic concerns.
The JR approach is an outgrowth of the ‘evidence based public policy’ strategy which seeks to promote social policy based on research outcomes rather than on the politics of legitimation crises and media and popular punitiveness. It is, at least in part, cost driven in recognition that law and order has traditionally been closeted from the calculations of economic rationality; expensive institutions such as prisons are treated as somehow immune from the accounting that lies behind decisions on investment in other forms of social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and public transport.
Since JR focuses on locations that produce high numbers of prisoners, the sheer extent of Māori over-representation in the criminal justice system means that most of these locations will be home to high numbers of Māori people.
There are however, a number of characteristics more likely to be found in Māori communities that make them suitable for JR policies. While in some cases these characteristics contribute to high levels of criminal offending, they are the types of issues that reinvestment strategies can attempt to address. These characteristics include the high level of disadvantage in many Māori communities, and the high level of victims’ needs in the Māori population.(4) In addition, the processes which characterise JR align well with what is acknowledged to be ‘best practice’ program implementation in Māori communities. These processes include the necessity for bipartisanship and consensus-driven solutions, the devolution of decision-making to the local level, the localisation of solutions, and the high level of input from the high-stakes communities about what might address criminogenic factors in that particular place. JR if managed well, allows communities to lead the direction of those strategies.
See CSG Justice Center, ‘Justice Reinvestment: About the project’, www.justicereinvestment.org./about.
See CSG Justice Center, ‘The Strategy: How justice reinvestment works – Step 3: Quantify savings and reinvest in select high-stakes communities’ www.justicereinvestment.org/strategy/quantify.
Todd R. Clear, ‘A Private-Sector Incentives-based Model for Justice Reinvestment’, (2011) 10(3) Criminology and Public Policy, 606.
For more on the interaction between these factors and justice reinvestment, see Melanie Schwartz, ‘Building Communities, Not Prisons: Justice Reinvestment and Indigenous Over-Representation’ (2010) 14(1) Australian Indigenous Law Review 2–17.
Australia - Links
Community Based Organisations
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