Send indigenous offenders to rehab: report
a "no-brainer" that sending non-violent Aboriginal offenders with
drug and alcohol problems to rehab rather than prison would cost
less and bring better outcomes, an indigenous leader
A new report commissioned by two drug and alcohol bodies and
released on Monday says $111,000 could be saved each year per
offender if such diversion programs were used.
"Diversion is associated with both financial savings as well as
improvements in health and mortality," the report by Deloitte
Access Economics found.
If 1600 non-violent indigenous offenders were treated for
substance addictions instead of being held in custody, state and
territory governments would save $340 million a year, it said.
The savings made from diverting 100 people to treatment would
fund the running costs of 20 rehabilitation centres.
National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee (NIDAC) chair Ted
Wilkes said the findings were a "no-brainer."
"Let's get on with it," he told reporters in Canberra.
"Our Aboriginal Australians are suffering."
Indigenous men were significantly more likely to report being
intoxicated when they committed an offence, Mr Wilkes said.
"Do governments really believe that prison is the best answer to
Incarceration was associated with poor health outcomes for
prisoners, including a higher risk of death after release, Mr
He called on Australian governments to support justice
reinvestment - shifting spending away from locking up offenders to
community-based programs focused on prevention.
Indigenous Health Minister Warren Snowdon said it was easy for
people to say "lock 'em up".
"We hear the mantra all the time, get them off the streets," he
"Maybe what we've got to do is look at a humanitarian way of
dealing with people with severe issues."
NIDAC deputy co-chair Scott Wilson called for justice statistics
to be included in the federal government's Closing the Gap targets,
aimed at addressing indigenous disadvantage.
He told of a young indigenous man who died of a drug overdose 12
hours after being released from an Australian prison.
Australian National Council director Gino Vumbaca said the
argument that people who do the crime should do the time fell short
of solving the problem.
"You have to support policies you would want for your own kids,"
"If your child has a drug and alcohol problem, would you want
authorities to imprison that person or treat the problem?"
In 2011, $3 billion was spent on 115 Australian prisons.
However, funding for rehabilitation services has been in decline
and only 30 facilities nationally provide drug and alcohol
treatment to indigenous people.
A Senate inquiry is investigating the justice reinvestment
References and further information