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Ombudsman report shows it is time to rethink approach to crime

VCOSS welcomes the recommendations of the Victorian Ombudsman in her Investigation into the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners in Victoria report, describing them as a broad-ranging and well-targeted set of recommendations that if implemented, would help make Victoria a safer state.

VCOSS CEO Emma King said the report’s call for a whole-of-government approach to reducing offending and re-offending shows the level of understanding that is needed to comprehensively address this issue.

“It is time for a community-wide conversation about how we prevent people from committing crimes and about how we ensure prisons, as well as being places of punishment, can also be places of rehabilitation, so that offenders can go on to become contributing members of society,” CEO Emma King said

“The report confirms that adopting a tough on crime approach that puts more people in prison simply ends up overcrowding prison and justice streams, reducing the chance for people to rehabilitate and reintegrate positively into the community. A quarter of Victoria’s prisoner population is serving a sentence of less than one year and will soon be transitioning back to the community.”

“VCOSS welcomes recommendations that Victoria consider adopting a justice reinvestment approach to crime prevention and community safety.”

“In Victoria, 25 per cent of prisoners come from just two per cent of postcodes, and half come from six percent of Victorian postcodes. The majority of Victoria’s prisoners have experienced significant disadvantage, often contributing to their offending behaviour. They have low rates of educational attainment, literacy and employment before entering prison. Many have histories of abuse, mental illness and substance use. Adopting a justice reinvestment approach means investing in disadvantaged communities – not prisons – and working with them to develop and implement local, place-based solutions to the economic and social risk factors behind offending.”

The report also highlights a number of alternative justice and sentencing approaches showing positive results and significantly reducing reoffending, such as the Collingwood Neighbourhood Justice and the Dandenong Drug Court.

“Cost effective and successful models such as these could be replicated more widely or expanded across the state.”

“VCOSS also welcomes the Ombudsman’s focus on supporting prisoners facing particular disadvantage, including women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people with a cognitive disability. As the report recognises the rates of imprisonment for women are growing at an alarming rate, but very few are serious violent offenders, most are classified by Corrections Victoria as ‘low risk’ and many are single parents with dependent children.”

“We commend the Ombudsman’s findings and look forward to seeing them further discussed across the community and with government. Implementing these recommendations will go a long way towards improving rehabilitation and recidivism rates, helping Victoria’s prisoners to stop the cycle of offending and become contributing members of society.”