New Vic justice reinvestment project takes shape
In October 2015 SJ4YP started a project, funded for 2.5 years by the Victorian Legal Services Board, called Building the case for youth justice reinvestment.
What we have been doing so far…
What we have learnt so far…
- Surveyed sixty SJ4YP members & other stakeholders regarding their understanding, interest & engagement in justice reinvestment,
- Interviewed twenty other key stakeholders (mainly advisors and bureaucrats) about their awareness and support for justice reinvestment,
- Scoping and documenting justice reinvestment campaigns, research and pilots across Australia, and
- Scoping and mapping Victorian initiatives that are “justice reinvestment like”.
There are many keen followers of justice reinvestment, but most feel others from their workplaces and communities know little about justice reinvestment. So it would seem there is a strong need to build up capacity and support local advocates and allies.
On the whole government finds the language of justice reinvestment problematic and unhelpful. Some feel the term feeds into the political “law & order” debate, and could be perceived as going “soft on crime”.
There is however significant support by in Victorian government of justice reinvestment principles, especially the importance of early intervention and prevention.
So the project is defining justice reinvestment as an effective alternative approach to crime prevention, involving spending more on intervening early and at critical life points, particularly for vulnerable and at-risk young people, to stop crime in the first place and overtime spend less money on tertiary justice services and prisons.
So rather than using the term "justice reinvestment", the project will focus on and promote the principles underpinning justice reinvestment , including:
Justice reinvestment like initiatives
- a primary focus on early intervention, prevention and diversion,
- integrated cross-government commitment and investment,
- localised or placed-based and community focused and led,
- address multiple drivers of crime, including economic and social disadvantage and risk factors,
- priorities are data driven and community informed, especially in communities where this is a high risk of children and young people becoming engaged in or re-engaging with the criminal justice system, &
- primary voice of family and children and young people affected
There is significant work going on in Victorian communities and Government: demonstrations to various degrees of justice reinvestment principles. The project should build on the good outcomes and learnings of these initiatives.
There is significant current investment by the Victorian Government in related strategies and programs, including Roadmap to Reform (Children and Youth Area Partnerships), Aboriginal Justice Agreement (Community Grant Projects), Regional Partnerships, Education State (Lookout Education Support Centres, Navigator and Learning Place), and Community Crime Prevention (Communities that Care & Place based targeted grants).
Arguably these cross-government strategies provide significant opportunity for the project to drive change and embed justice reinvestment in policy and practice.
In year one of the project we will profile and demonstrate “justice reinvestment like” community practice. Specifically we hope to set up a panel to help us co-convene some dialogue forums to bring together those practicing in this space, mapping various programs, telling the story of various community-driven justice reinvestment like initiatives, sharing their impetus, benefits, outcomes and learnings, and linking them back to justice or crime prevention outcomes.
We will also partner with a few community “justice reinvestment like” case study sites and document what is happening in these sites in a way which can assist with high level advocacy to build the business case to Government to show how justice reinvestment can be applied in Victoria long term.
Changes to Bail Act to help at risk children
Members of SJ4YP have been voicing concerns about the sharp increase in number of children held on remand, since the introduction of the offence of breach of bail conditions, back in December 2013.
- children being exempt from the breach of bail condition offence ; and
Taking on these concerns the Andrews Government's Bail Amendment Bill was passed in Parliament on 11th February and makes some positive changes that relate to children being::
- a new provision with child specific factors that address the particular needs of children to be considered in bail decisions; and
- the inclusion of a presumption in favour of initiating criminal proceedings against children by summons, rather than arrest, to align with Victoria Police best practice.
These changes will make a difference to children who are at risk of entering our youth justice system.
SJ4YP thanks Minister Mikakos and the Attorney General Pakula for their leadership and commitment to introducing and seeing these changes through, and to everyone else who collaborated and supported these important bail reforms.
Amendments included in the Integrity and Accountability Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 will strengthen the Independent Broad based Anti-corruption Commission’s (‘IBAC’) ability to investigate and report on corrupt conduct.
However SJ4YP remains concerned that IBAC continues to refer the majority of complaints about police to Victoria Police for investigation.
SJ4YP and other stakeholders call on the Government to increase IBAC’s resources to ensure that IBAC can fulfil its function of independently investigating complaints of police misconduct.
The bill is apparently the first stage of Government's integrity and accountability reforms. The Government will continue its review of the system during 2016 and 2017 to identify further opportunities to improve its effectiveness. It plans to release a discussion paper and invite public comment.
Additionally given the the concerns raised by by stakeholders in Victoria, the IBAC Committee of the Victorian Parliament has indicated they intend to further investigate this issue.