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ACT Greens set ‘ambitious’ incarceration target

The ACT Greens have today announced an “ambitious goal” to bring Indigenous incarceration rates in line with non-Indigenous rates by 2030.

A 2020 Productivity Commission report found an increase of 279% in the ACT’s Aboriginal incarceration rate between 2009 and 2019.

ACT Greens spokesperson Shane Rattenbury described the target as an “ambitious” but necessary goal.

“It’s a really ambitious goal; I don’t know if it can be achieved but we have to set a goal like that because the current situation cannot be continued,” he told ABC Radio Canberra today, Friday 2 October. 

“With our small numbers in particular, we believe we can form really effective partnerships with non-government organisations.

“We can build up more Aboriginal-led organisations, which I think is particularly important in this context, and we can make a difference here.”

The ACT saw a 26.7% decrease in detention rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people between 2017 and 2019; however, statistics show they are still imprisoned at eight times the rate of their non-Indigenous peers.

The commitment from the ACT Greens pledges $20 million to a Justice Reinvestment package over the next four years, aimed at accelerating community programs including the Ngurraambai Bail Support Program and Justice Housing Program.

Mr Rattenbury said different and hard-hitting targets were needed for change to occur.

“With the right supports in place, we can help change the trajectories of those coming in and out of the prison system,” he said.

“In the ACT, we have been witness to increases far beyond what should be possible in a city-state as well-resourced and inclusive as ours. We must do things differently if we want a different outcome.”

The target announced today is significantly ahead of the national target, which aims to decrease indigenous incarceration rates by just 15% by 2031 as part of ‘Closing the Gap’.

Mr Rattenbury said this was an issue that when addressed, could have flow-on effects to the rest of the community.

“This area of justice reform is so important because it has enormous social impacts, it has an economic impact,” he said.  

“If we can get our system better oriented so we spend the money up front, we can get people out of the criminal justice system, make the whole community safer, get better budgetary outcomes and improve the lives of those who, at the moment, are finding themselves on the wrong end of the law.”

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