Canberra Conversation Lecture Series

Justice Reinvestment and Incarceration in the ACT

Mon 30 November 2015Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis & the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University / 12.30pm-1.30pmMembers Dining Room 3, Old Parliament House

The Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at the University of Canberra and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University are thrilled to invite guests to attend, 'Justice Reinvestment and Incarceration in the ACT'. This free public seminar will be a conversation between ANU Professor Mick Dodson AM, IGPA Professorial Fellow Jon Stanhope AO and former Editor-in-Chief at the Canberra Times Jack Waterford AM.



Australia spent $3.2 billion on incarceration in 2013-14. The burden of incarceration falls heavily on Indigenous families and communities: from 2000 to 2010, Indigenous prisoner numbers increased by 85% compared with 35% for non-Indigenous.  Indigenous Australians make up 28% of the adult Australian prisoner population and are 14 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people.  An Indigenous person aged 10-17 years is almost 15 times more likely to be under supervision on any given day than a non-Indigenous young person.

Five years after opening AMC reportedly needs a $54 million extension, signifying that the ACT is not immune from the expansionary pressures in other Australian jurisdictions. While ACT has Australia’s lowest incarceration rates, its incarceration pattern mirrors other jurisdictions in over-representation of Indigenous prisoners (Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that at 2013 it was 16%, but more accurately currently it is over 25%) and, as elsewhere, its prisoners are usually from low socio-economic neighbourhoods.

An innovative policy idea that is gaining traction in Australia is Justice Reinvestment (JR).  JR can be conceived of as both a philosophy for justice reform and a set of strategies that seek to examine incarceration spending, so that funds that might have been spent on incarceration are instead reinvested into health and social interventions that reduce offending in the socio-demographic groups and communities that disproportionately contribute to prison populations.  The idea springs from an understanding that over-incarceration impacts communities in ways that perpetuate cycles of crime.  As a systems-based approach, JR encompasses a comprehensive range of service provision areas such as health, housing, employment, justice, family support, mental health and alcohol and other drug use services.  It impels policymakers to consider the implications of current punitive policies that result in higher levels of incarceration, particularly of Indigenous Australians, and how funding could instead be directed towards addressing the social determinants of incarceration.


12.00pm - Registration and light lunch served

12.30pm - Conversation starts

1.30pm - Event concludes

Back to Canberra Conversation Lecture Series