Peter Murphy
Noetic Group

The concept of ‘justice reinvestment’ positions that better justice outcomes can be achieved by investing resources in addressing the causes of offending behaviour rather than the consequences of this type of behaviour – that is prisons and corrections.  Noetic was an early advocate of justice reinvestment in our 2010 Strategic Review of Juvenile Justice in NSW.  Noetic also provided evidence on justice reinvestment to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Affairs inquiry into indigenous youth in the criminal justice system (see the report Doing Time – Time for Doing).

It is pleasing to see that the Senate is currently undertaking an Inquiry into the value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia.  This will provide an opportunity for the concept to be further explored and hopefully as a catalyst in providing guidance for the implementation of justice reinvestment in Australia.  Noetic has provided a submission based on our experience in working on, and thinking about, justice issues for the Federal, and state and territory governments.

Justice reinvestment emerged from the United States of America (USA) in the early 2000s.  A wide range of justice reinvestment initiatives have been undertaken by state authorities in the USA that are yielding results. Interestingly, it appears justice reinvestment has gained bi-partisan support in response to the growing levels of expenditure on corrections (see  However, this early success and enthusiasm does not necessarily mean it should be adopted here in Australia.  While there are some similar justice circumstances between Australia and the USA, there are also significant differences. Consequently, adapting justice reinvestment to our circumstances is a key requirement in progressing the concept in Australia.  In doing so, Noetic sees that a trial of the concept would be an important first step.  This requires a carefully chosen geographic area to pilot the concept that has both high levels of offending behaviour, and access to, or the ability to develop services that are essential to implementing justice reinvestment.

While Noetic is very aware that Indigenous Australians are grossly overrepresented in both youth and adult corrections systems, we do not see this as being a purely Indigenous issue.  Disadvantage affects many groups and therefore justice reinvestment programs must be culturally appropriate to these different groups if they are to achieve the desired change and outcomes.

In drawing together a wide range of service providers (including Federal and state/territory services) and to ensure ongoing evaluation, Noetic has suggested that the Cooperative Research Centre model be adapted to manage long term funding, develop and coordinate local programs, and oversee the evaluation of these initiatives.

The key challenge for the implementation of justice reinvestment is that it requires upfront expenditure and that there is no guarantee that savings will be realised in the future.  Unless we are prepared to take this risk, there is unlikely to be any major improvement in reducing the significant social and financial cost of crime across Australia.

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