The Palaszczuk Government has released its response into a 516-page report into imprisonment and recidivism, committing to implement a series of criminal justice system reforms, but rejecting a proposal to decriminalise illicit drugs.
Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Jackie Trad said the report was a comprehensive review into the options for how to proceed with dispensing justice in Queensland.
“The starting point is, and will always be, making the Queensland community safer,” Ms Trad said.
“Keeping communities safe is one of the Palaszczuk Government’s Advancing Queensland Priorities, and we will never waver from that commitment.
“The Productivity Commission report finds that as police detection of crimes improves, the prison population continues to grow, rising by more than 160% per head of population since 1992.
“The Productivity Commission report makes some important recommendations on ways we can maintain community safety while making our criminal justice system work better.”
The 516-page report found it costs $111,000 in direct costs each year per prisoner, with another $48,000 per year in indirect costs.
The Productivity Commission report estimates that in order to address the growth in prison numbers, Queensland would need to invest an additional $3.6 billion in the next five years to house an additional 4,200 prisoners.
“We will never compromise community safety, which is why this year’s budget invests $635 million on a new prison at the Southern Queensland Correction Precinct as well as additional beds in existing prisons.
“We’re already implementing a range of reforms to strengthen the criminal justice system, from our Action on Ice strategy to tackle the harm caused by crystal methamphetamine, to our Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy, the establishment of a new Department of Youth Justice, and the construction of a new youth detention centre at Wacol.
“But before we spend another $3 billion on prisons, we need to be absolutely certain doing so is the best way to make Queenslanders safer.
“The Productivity Commission report suggests there may be other ways to improve the criminal justice system.
”That’s why we are committed to addressing this report to ensure we have a criminal justice system that delivers the safer society Queenslanders want.”
The report found:
- Indigenous Queenslanders are three times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Queenslanders.
- Women are imprisoned at lower rates than men, but the rate of female imprisonment is climbing.
- Almost half of all Queensland prisoners are likely to have been hospitalised for mental health issues or to have had a history of child protection.
- Courts are issuing prison sentences more often
“People who commit serious crimes should go to jail – no questions asked,” the Deputy Premier said.
“But given the cost of keeping prisoners in prison, we need to examine whether that is the best option for people who repeatedly fail to pay fines, or are repeatedly arrested with small amounts of drugs for personal use.
“That’s especially true if that prison sentence pushes a small-time offender towards a life of more crime, rather than rehabilitation.”
The Deputy Premier noted that the foreword to the QPC report acknowledged some of its proposed reforms would require wider community agreement and should not be rushed, but that it hoped the analysis would be the catalyst for further community debate.
The QPC report and government response are available here
Media Release Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships
The Honourable Jackie Trad