The Government needs to better fund early intervention, support services, therapeutic help and local support networks to keep people out of the criminal justice system and expand programs to reduce reoffending.
It costs nearly $77,000 a year to keep someone in prison and New South Wales spends more than $966 million on custodial services. I believe we can use this money more wisely.
In Parliament, I recently asked the Government to relook at prison laws, policies and programs and to aim for a restorative, rehabilitative justice system that achieves positive outcomes for the community. The Government should invest in services that help ex-prisoners get back on their feet, into employment and housing, rather than back in prison.
There are already some excellent programs helping keep young people and those with a mental illness, drug problems or disability out of prison and they should be expanded across the State. Community support services such as CRC Justice Support, Tribal Warrior, Babana Men's Group and the Women in Prison Advocacy Network must be expanded.
Putting more people in prison has been standard practice in NSW, with more than 11,000 prisoners, an increase of 32 per cent since 1999 despite stable or falling crime rates.
Other countries are using a justice reinvestment approach, where a share of public spending on prisons is diverted into initiatives that reduce offending.