Reoffending on the rise, as Victoria lags on diversion

November 24, 2014 |

Reoffending is climbing in Victoria, despite the steep increase in imprisonment and the record expansion of Victoria’s prisons. Almost 40 per cent of Victorian prisoners reoffend within two years, and that figure is rising, despite a steady decline from 2003–04 to 2009–10.

‘The increasing rate of reoffending in Victoria is a signal that our criminal justice system is broken, and we need to look to the evidence of what reduces crime, rather than continuing massive spending on prisons as the sole solution – a ‘solution’ that limits the resources available for more effective and less expensive alternatives such as diversion,’ said Michelle McDonnell, spokesperson for Smart Justice, today.

 

The Victorian Government is lagging on measures to prevent crime, reduce reoffending, and prevent future victims, spending a small fraction of its nearly $1 billion annual investment to run prisons in 2014–15 alone.

A youth diversion pilot recently announced by the Victorian Government will receive only $7 million over four years, despite evaluation evidence that youth diversion works.

There is also strong evidence from NSW that drug courts are very effective in reducing reoffending, with a 37 per cent reduced likelihood of reoffending by participants in the follow-up period.

‘Drug courts aim to treat underlying problems that lead to substance abuse and related offending. It’s an approach that seems common sense, and one that is also supported by the evidence,’ Ms McDonnell said.

The Victorian Government has yet to announce its response to a Parliamentary Committee report on methamphetamine use (tabled in September) recommending the expansion of Victoria’s current single drug court in Dandenong to Melbourne, Geelong, Sunshine and Gippsland (see recommendations 33 and 34).

The government is also yet to release an evaluation of the Dandenong Drug Court that had been expected last May. The court has now been running for more than a decade, with the last evaluation released in 2006.

Drug Court Magistrate Tony Parsons and Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen made a submission to the Inquiry into the supply and use of methamphetamines, particularly ‘Ice’, in Victoria, recommending the drug court model could be applied statewide.

Smart Justice is a coalition of 31 organisations led by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.