Indigenous incarceration costs almost double price of uni education
25 February 2016
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts has called for reforms to reduce the nation’s appalling rate of indigenous imprisonment – saying it costs taxpayers almost twice as much to lock people up than provide them with an elite university education.
Mr Potts said it was time for the state and federal governments to set “aspirational targets’’ to reduce incarceration of indigenous Australians and implement strategies and policies to guarantee positive outcomes.
He said the current estimated cost of incarceration in Queensland was $66,000 per prisoner each year – while the cost of keeping a person fed, clothed, with a roof over their head and a university education was about $38,000.
Federal Productivity Commission figures from 2013/14 show the number of Indigenous Australians imprisoned was 16 times higher than non-Indigenous people.
The call follows the recent announcement by the Northern Territory Government to set justice targets aimed at halving the rate of Aboriginal imprisonment by 2030 and a call by the Law Council of Australia for state and federal intergovernmental action.
“Statistics show that it costs more to incarcerate a person for five years than it would to send them to one of Queensland’s best universities. I know how I’d rather my taxes be spent,’’ Mr Potts said.
“Courts like the Murri Court and the Drug Court have been successful in reducing reoffending and incarceration, and it is good to see them on the way back in Queensland.
“Keeping indigenous people out of the prison system through these rehabilitation measures will give them a chance at a better life – and it’s simply good economics. From our point of view, it is much better to educate than incarcerate.’’
Earlier this week, Law Council of Australia President Stuart Clark AM called on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to seize the opportunity for intergovernmental action.
“Australia’s Indigenous incarceration rates represent a national crisis. Justice targets and an intergovernmental strategy on imprisonment and community violence must be on the agenda at the next COAG meeting,” Mr Clark said.
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