Submission: In response to the Inquiry into the value of a justice reinvestment approach to criminal justice in Australia

RLC's submission is based on The Civil Society Report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 

The aim of our joint submission (compiled on behalf of a cooperative body of Disability Representative, Advocacy, Legal and Human Rights Organisations) is to address the following terms of reference that relate to persons living with disability:

  • The over-representation of disadvantaged groups within Australian prisons, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and people experiencing mental ill-health, cognitive disability and hearing loss
  • The cost, availability and effectiveness of alternatives to imprisonment, including prevention, early intervention, diversionary and rehabilitation measures. 

The Project Group's views in summary

People with disability are over-represented in the justice system whether as complainants, litigants, defendants, victims or other witnesses. They also encounter significant barriers in undertaking roles as officers of the courts, such as jurors, lawyers, administrators and adjudicators. 

The failure to acknowledge the credibility of people with cognitive or psychosocial disability before the law, whether as witnesses or victims, enables perpetrators of abuse and criminal assault, to avoid the normal consequences for such acts. 

Disproportionately high numbers of people with disability in the justice system highlight major failures in the justice system to divert and prevent custodial sentences and provide appropriate post custody supports and rehabilitation. Major reforms are required with regard to how people with disability are treated in the justice system. 

Our recommendations are as follows:

  • That legislative, administrative and policy frameworks that deprive people with disability of their liberty and impact on their security are reviewed to ensure they are fully consistent with the CRPD.
  • That adequate funding is provided to Community Legal Centres to ensure access to justice for people with disability.
  • That standard and compulsory modules on working with people with disability are incorporated into training programs for police, prison officers, lawyers, judicial officers and court staff. 
  • That all people with disability be made eligible for jury service. 
  • The development of a comprehensive, gender and culture specific social support programs and systems to identify and prevent the circumstances that contribute to children and young people with disability coming into contact or entering the juvenile justice system.
  • The implementation of a range of gender and culture specific diversionary programs and mechanisms and community-based sentencing options that are integrated with flexible disability support packages and social support programs to prevent adults with disability coming into contact or entering the criminal justice system. 
  • That as a matter of urgency, the unwarranted use of prisons for the management of unconvicted people with disability be ended, with a focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability be ended, by establishing legislative, administrative and support frameworks that comply with the CRPD. 
  • The establishment of mandatory guidelines and practice to ensure that people with disability who are deprived of their liberty in the criminal justice system are provided with appropriate supports and accommodation.
  • That legislation should be amended in relation to crime to include the specific (statutory) offence of deprivation of liberty.

Our submissions can be accessed here.