The Australian National University (ANU) will hold a major workshop to address soaring rates of Indigenous incarceration from Monday, bringing together public servants, policy and community organisations.
The Broken Justice workshop, organised by the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), runs from 4 to 5 September.
The workshop will bring together leading experts on Indigenous justice from around Australia to find ways to reduce the number of Indigenous Australians who are jailed, often for minor offences.
Workshop chair and CAEPR Fellow, Dr Deirdre Howard-Wagner, said experts will examine the impacts of state interventions on Indigenous people in areas like child protection, family violence and the practice of offering prison sentences as an alternative to paying fines.
It will also look at justice reinvestment programs and issues around gambling, as well issues for Native Americans and Indigenous people in New Zealand.
Defaulting on fines accounts for one-third of the prison population in Western Australia and is a key contributor of increasing rates of Indigenous women in prison, now at 33 per cent of the national prison population.
As well as increasing the likelihood of secondary offending in the criminal justice system, the practice punishes the poor and puts more Indigenous people behind bars, leaving them vulnerable and contributing to deaths in custody.
“Using incarceration to pay off a fine doesn’t make economic sense,” said Dr Howard-Wagner.
“It costs $300 a day to house a prisoner. That money would be better spent providing more community programs which are enjoying success and which can cost about $30 a day.”
Practising ACT barrister, solicitor and ANU Law School Faculty Member, Associate Professor Wood, will discuss how incarceration rates in Australia have increased since the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody, and how the health and social indicators between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people widen.