Crime-drop welcome but Victoria needs smart justice now, lawyers and social workers say

March 16, 2018 |

Smart Justice – a coalition of 46 of Victoria’s legal and social service providers, led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres – welcomes today’s announcement by Police Minister Lisa Neville that Victoria has recorded its biggest drop in crime in 10 years.

However, the divisive ‘law and order’ debate in recent months could undermine this progress, Smart Justice members say. They are calling on the Victorian government to immediately adopt Smart Justice policies proven to make our communities safer, in order to accelerate the downward trend.

Smart Justice members have been campaigning especially hard on behalf of young people. They are calling on the Victorian Government to end the prosecution of children, stop harming kids in custody, and ultimately to close all child prisons down.
 
“The law and order debate, fuelled by politics, has divided communities, making them less safe,” said Smart Justice Convenor Melanie Poole, “young people are being unfairly targeted by police and vigilantes because of the colour of their skin and where they live.”
 
“Ten year olds belong in schools, but the Victorian government is throwing them in prisons,” said Ms Poole, “this only traps children in the quicksand of the justice system, tripling the chances that they’ll reoffend.”[i]

“Two recent Youth Justice inquiries[ii] revealed the abuse happening in children’s prisons. The Victorian Government is not making the community safer by jailing and abusing children.”
 
Smart Justice is also campaigning for the wider justice system to shift away from prisons and toward community-driven solutions that prioritise support and rehabilitation, instead of treating people struggling with issues like homelessness, substance addiction and poverty as criminals. They are also calling for increased police transparency and fairer remand laws.

“Initiatives like these would see Victoria’s crime rate drop much faster,” said Ms Poole, “That’s why we’re calling on Premier Daniel Andrews and his Government to implement these Smart Justice reforms immediately.”

“The evidence is unequivocal. Crime goes down when our societies are more inclusive and our communities less discriminatory, when police are held to account in a fair, transparent and independent manner, and when we invest in prevention, support and rehabilitation instead of prisons and punishment.”
 
The Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) is the peak body for 49 community legal centres across Victoria. These Centres work with communities to provide free legal advice to people who are experiencing disadvantage or injustice. They also deliver community legal education so that people know their rights, and fight for economic and social justice at a systemic level.
 
Smart Justice is a coalition of 46 organisations committed to criminal justice policies that reduce crime, are based on evidence and comply with human rights obligations.

 

For further comment:
Melanie Poole
melanie.poole@fclc.org.au
0401 518 562

 

[i] The Sentencing Council of Victoria estimates that if a child is arrested before the age of 14 they become three times more likely to develop into chronic adult offenders. Sentencing Advisory Council, (2012) Sentencing Children and Young People in Victoria, Sentencing Advisory Council, Melbourne.

[ii] “Youth Justice Review and Strategy: meeting needs and reducing offending”, http://www.justice.vic.gov.au/home/justice+system/youth+justice/youth+justice+review+and+strategy+meeting+needs+and+reducing+offending and “Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria”, https://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/lsic/inquiries/inquiry/447