RMIT's Centre for Innovative Justice has hosted Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass for a discussion on her latest investigation into Victoria's justice system.
The Ombudsman’s recent report covers a range of important issues from rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria and her conclusion is clear: building more prisons does not ensure a safer community.
“Over the last five years there has been an increase in crime, an increase in prisoner numbers and an increase in the cost of prisons (we are spending over a billion dollars a year), and alongside that there has been an increase in recidivism,” Glass said.
“What we are seeing is more and more people going in to prison and coming back there. Now that is not making us safer as a community.”
Glass recommended that justice reinvestment - the diversion of government spending from prisons into strategies and initiatives designed to reduce offending rates - could help to break the cycle of recidivism and increase community safety.
More than 300 people attended the event including magistrates, barristers, members of the legal, social and community sector and media, law and social work students.
After her presentation, Glass was part of a panel discussion led by Adjunct Professor Rob Hulls, Director of the Centre for Innovative Justice, which included Jan Shuard (Commissioner, Corrections Victoria), Magistrate Rosemary Falla (Magistrates’ Court of Victoria), Julie Edwards (CEO, Jesuit Social Services), and Tracy Raeburn (former prisoner).
Hulls asked the panel a range of questions on the topics of overcrowding in prisons, links between disadvantage and offending, prisoner services, and support programs in jail.
“The more than one billion dollars that we are now spending on prisons is money taken from other areas including hospitals, schools and public transport,” he said.
To finish the session he asked each panel member to identify the key thing that would help make us safer as a community. Former prisoner, Tracy Raeburn, had the last word.
“Employment. Once you have been a prisoner it is impossible to get a job,” she said.
"Everyone wants police checks and as soon as they find out you have been a prisoner, that’s it, the rest of your life you don’t get a job, you just sit around doing nothing.”
For a podcast of the event email firstname.lastname@example.org
Story: Ainslie Logsdon