Victorian Ombudsman's Report: Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Prisoners

From: Change the Record: 18.09.2015

A new report released by the Victorian Ombudsman yesterday, has once again highlighted the need for urgent action to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system and calls for a whole-of-government approach.

The report, Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria, examines the effectiveness of Victoria’s criminal justice system and notes that there are significant issues with the prison system as a whole. In particular, the report highlights that the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a major issue, with Victoria being the state with the fastest rate of increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment in the country.

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Despite spending in excess of 1 billion dollars each year, Victorian prison numbers and rates of reoffending have continued to increase. This is a trend that we are seeing around the nation.

Shane Duffy, Co-Chair of the Change the Record Coalition argues that this report highlights that building more prisons is not having the effect of making communities safer or reducing crime. A more effective approach would be to invest in early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies which focus on addressing the reasons that individuals come into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place.

“As we have said time and time again, we need all levels of government to shift away from seeing our prison system as the answer. The evidence clearly demonstrates that strong, healthy communities are the most effective way to prevent crime and make communities safe. Every dollar spent on prisons is one less dollar available to invest in reducing social and economic disadvantage through education, health, disability, housing, employment and other programs. Government funding must be reinvested into initiatives that address the underlying causes of crime” Mr Duffy said.

“We welcome the Victorian Ombudsman’s recommendations, including the calls for greater availability of culturally tailored services and programs, expansion of problem-solving courts and the establishment of Justice Reinvestment pilots in disadvantaged Victorian communities.”

The Change the Record Coalition urges the Victorian Government, and other States and Territories, to implement these recommendations.

Coalition Co-Chair Kirstie Parker pointed to the report’s recommendation for a whole-of-government approach to addressing imprisonment and reoffending rates, as well as the ‘creation and publication of targets and performance measures’. Whilst the report has a Victorian focus, these recommendations could be usefully considered at the national level, through the creation of federal justice targets to help drive co-ordinated national action on this issue.

“Now is the time for critical bipartisan leadership. In the lead up to the November meeting of the Council of Australian Governments, we are calling on all levels of government to commit to working together on a long term intergovernmental strategy to address the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system, and reduce the rates of violence experience by our peoples” said Ms Parker.

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The ‘Change the Record’ coalition is a group of leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, community and human rights organisations working collaboratively to address the disproportionate rates of incarceration and violence experienced by Indigenous Australians.

The Change the Record coalition has identified two goals, to: Close the gap in rates of imprisonment by 2040; and Cut the disproportionate rates of violence to at least close the gap by 2040 with priority strategies for women and children. The Coalition calling for greater investment in early intervention, prevention and diversion strategies. These are smarter solutions that increase safety, address the root causes of violence against women, cut reoffending and imprisonment rates, and build stronger and safer communities.

For more information about Change the Record, visit

Media Contacts: General contact: Shannon Longhurst, phone 0409 711 061 Media contact for Kirstie Parker: Mahala Strohfeldt, phone 0457 877 408

Patrick McGee ADJC Coordinator 0448 610 105