Like Trump, Australia Must Focus On Reoffending To Make Communities Safer

Written by:
9 February 2020
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“The single most effective criminal justice reform would be to reduce reoffending,” said Andrew Bushnell, Research Fellow at the free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

The Institute of Public Affairs today released its latest research report from the IPA Criminal Justice Project, First Step Australia: 10 ideas for reducing reoffending. The report explores the evidence for 10 policy options for improving the rehabilitative aspect of our criminal justice systems.

The report takes its name and inspiration from successful United States reforms signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“President Trump’s reforms signal a powerful shift in the politics of community safety,” said Mr Bushnell.

“The important message from the First Step Act is that new approaches to criminal justice are needed, and that the focus of reform efforts should be on reoffending, meaning the number of offenders who return to crime after passing through the system.”

Like the United States, but not yet at the same scale, Australia has seen a recent rapid increase in incarceration, driven in part by high rates of reoffending.

“The facts of Australia’s underperforming criminal justice systems are stark and becoming well-known. Over the past decade, the incarceration rate is up 30 percent, meaning there are now 43,000 people in Australian prisons on any given day, and prisons cost taxpayers more than $4 billion annually on operational costs alone,” said Mr Bushnell.

“Less well-known is the fact that 58 percent of prisoners have been in prison before, and that 45 percent of prisoners return to prison within two years of their release.”

The report considers ideas ranging from large scale reforms like increasing the use of community service and diversion programs through to more targeted interventions like expanding education and mentoring services, and providing tax credits and insurance for business taking on ex-offenders.

“All Australians will benefit from a corrections system that is actually corrective. The point is not to replace punishment with rehabilitation, but to make sure our punishments do not make rehabilitation impossible.” said Mr Bushnell.

Download the report here.

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