ALS urges NSW and ACT governments to lead, adopting 10 year justice targets to end imprisonment

ALS urges NSW and ACT governments to lead, adopting 10 year justice targets to end imprisonment  

7 August 2020

The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (‘ALS’) is calling on the NSW and ACT governments to voluntarily adopt ambitious jurisdictional-based justice targets to reduce the imprisonment of Aboriginal people.

“We welcome the release of the new Closing the Gap Agreement last week, however the State and Territory Governments have an opportunity to voluntarily increase the  justice targets as part of the mandated jurisdictional plans.”, said ALS CEO Karly Warner.

“Everyday Aboriginal people are forced into the quicksand of the criminal legal system at vastly disproportionate rates due to discriminatory laws, targeted policing and system failures to hold correctional institutions to account. Our communities deserve a decisive and genuine commitment to address the  utterly shameful treatment of Aboriginal people in the legal system.”

“In the coming months, each State and Territory government will be developing jurisdictional plans to progress action towards the national Closing the Gap agreement.  We’re calling on the NSW and ACT governments to show leadership by voluntarily adopting stronger jurisdictional-based justice targets - which aim to end the over-imprisonment of Aboriginal people within 10 years.” 

“From cities to regional towns, people of good conscience from all over of NSW and ACT are calling for change through peaceful protests to end Aboriginal deaths in custody. In 1991, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody recommended that governments stop locking up Aboriginal people in the first place – for imprisonment to be the last resort” said Ms Warner

New data released this week by Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) showed a 10.7% decrease in the overall prison population and a 11.3% decrease in the number of Aboriginal people in prison over the last quarter. The majority of this decline was due to a reduction in the number of people being held in custody on remand.  The COVID-19 pandemic has meant police are issuing fewer court attendance notices, and police and courts are more likely to grant bail.  

"This shows us that state and territory governments can rapidly reduce prison numbers when there is political will to undertake systems change to ensure people’s wellbeing is the priority – isn’t the wellbeing of people important regardless of a pandemic?"

“Our communities have been putting the solutions on the table for a long time – diversion, bail reform, justice reinvestment, raising the age of  legal responsibility, the establishment of a Walama Court, ending systemic discrimination in the police and correctional institutions, increased investment in early intervention, healing and rehabilitation programs. Now is the time for concerted political action. If we put people’s wellbeing first, we have the ability to achieve change together quickly” said Ms Warner.

ALS Media Contact: media@alsnswact.org.au / 0427 346 017

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