Injustice in the Justice System

Samaritans CEO

At Samaritans we believe in equality, justice, and reconciliation. Yet a great injustice is apparent in the very system meant to correct and rehabilitate: there is an undeniable overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our justice system.

The NSW Council of Social Services found that in NSW, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “are 11.3 times more likely than non-Aboriginal people to be imprisoned” and that once entered into the system, they experience a 74% recidivism rate.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are not more predisposed to committing crime. They are not inherently prone to recommit. They do however suffer from a systematic and institutionalised bias against them.

The success of Samaritans post-release services evidences the power of support and rehabilitation in reducing the recidivism rate of people exiting prison.

Through programs such as The Recovery Point and Friendship House, we address recidivism by supporting people exiting prison. Whether it is assistance in finding employment, securing accommodation or setting and achieving goals, our services act as someone’s entry point back into the community.

Our success rate speaks for itself: only 10% of men who progress through our Friendship House program will go on to reoffend. This is significantly lower than the national average of 60%.

Rehabilitation should be at the heart of justice and our programs show how effective it can be at changing somebody’s life.

The loss to community is a point emphasised by the NSW Council of Social Service when it comes to the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. By offering post-release services, to anyone exiting prison including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Samaritans hopes to illustrate the importance of rehabilitation and community.

In order to combat the gross overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our justice system, the government needs to prioritise putting appropriate supports in place to reduce the risk of reoffending and offer more rehabilitation services.

Recidivism is an addressable issue. If we can stop the cycle we can start to heal not only an individual and their community but the very system which acts to harm rather than protect.