Through the 2019-20 ACT Budget we are investing innovative new services to deliver better justice outcomes and reduce recidivism by helping more people onto new pathways after coming into contact with the justice system.
Building communities not prisons
The ACT Government has an ambitious target to reduce recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025. So through this Budget we are investing in evidence-based programs focused on crime prevention – addressing the causes of offending to help improve community safety, reduce the prison population and improve the lives of offenders and their families.
The 2019-20 Budget gets work underway on a new Reintegration Centre at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, to support detainees back into the community and help them stay out of the justice system.
The new centre will include up to 80 beds and increase the range of rehabilitation programs available to detainees. Delivered in partnership with non-government and government organisations, enhanced programs will include trauma and relationship counselling, alcohol, tobacco and other drug rehabilitation, and other training including job skills.
We will also grow our investment in a Justice Housing service to better support the housing needs of women as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved with the justice system.
The Justice Housing service will provide safe and supportive accommodation options to help ensure that alleged offenders are not denied bail because they don’t have an address to go to. As part of the service, bail granted by the courts will be supervised and those awaiting trial will be linked to social and familiar support networks.
This follows our announcement earlier this year on establishing a Bail Accommodation Transition Support Service for male detainees.
Helping victims give evidence in court
Giving all Canberrans access to justice means ensuring the voices of vulnerable members of our community can be heard in our justice system. Being able to comprehensibly and clearly communicate evidence in the justice process can often be a deciding factor in whether a prosecution is successful or not.
That’s why we will establish an intermediary scheme in the ACT, to help vulnerable witnesses including children, people with disability and victims of child sexual abuse. An intermediary is an independent communication specialist who will help people to give their best evidence to police and the court.
This initiative is part of our commitment to fully implement the criminal law reform recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Supporting community legal centres
Community legal centres play an important role in ensuring the most vulnerable members of our community can access legal advice and representation when they need it. So through this Budget we will provide additional funding to Care Inc. and the Women’s Legal Centre.
This will enable the Women’s Legal Centre to better support women in vulnerable situations who need individual legal services. Care Inc. operates the Consumer Law Centre, and this further investment will enable them to deliver a specialist family violence financial counsellor. The family violence counsellor will work closely with lawyers from other legal centres to provide a holistic service to clients facing financial abuse as a result of family violence.
This substantial investment in community legal centres will also include support for the Environmental Defenders Office to provide advice to the ACT community on matters relating to the environment.
The ACT Government has been providing support for these community legal services since 2016 when the Commonwealth Government significantly cut the funding available through the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Funding.
The ACT’s justice system provides accessible justice services to support victims of crime, rehabilitate offenders, and maintain the safety and security of our community. Through the Budget we are investing in justice services and our court system to ensure these support our plans to reduce recidivism and create a stronger, safer community in the years to come.