The shocking imprisonment rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children have reached a crisis point and are now the most pressing issue facing the criminal justice system.

President of The Law Society of NSW Doug Humphreys has called for a stronger commitment from the NSW and Commonwealth Governments to a more holistic approach to justice backed by sufficient on-going funding.

"Our current punitive approach to justice is not working," Mr Humphreys said.

"We call upon the NSW and Federal Governments to take urgent action to Close the Gap by setting justice targets to reduce shameful disproportion in incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"Without urgent and decision action and a readjustment of our approach towards justice reinvestment, the cycle of social devastation faced by individuals, families and entire communities will continue."

Mr Humphreys said justice targets could be included in a reinvigorated Closing the Gap strategy in addition to objectives in relation to education, employment and health.

"A more coordinated national approach that includes justice-specific targets and a greater focus on justice reinvestment could better help address key factors that lead to involvement in crime and ultimately detention, such as poverty and disadvantage in education, employment and health," Mr Humphreys said.

Mr Humphreys said there was a critical need for more community-based sentencing options to be readily available, particularly in regional and remote areas where many options available were not provided, as well as more culturally-appropriate early intervention and prevention programs.

"This includes more services for people with disabilities and mental illnesses as well as drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and support for people facing family violence," he said.

"We need to treat the whole person, not just some of the symptoms. Not only will this do more to address to the disadvantage and marginalization Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities face, it also makes better longer-term financial sense for the overall Australian community who would prefer to devote more resources to improving society rather than prison beds."

Some key statistics

*NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

*Australian Bureau of Statistics

Media Contact

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