At $543.19 per prisoner, per day, the ACT leads the nation in incarceration costs, according to the latest Productivity Commission Report on Australia’s corrective services.
The average across all jurisdictions was $305.50 while, by way of example, the rate in Queensland was $251.0 and in NSW it was $298.33.
The Productivity Commission reports that the net operating expenditure, in 2022-23 on the AMC and community corrections was $100.8 million.
The figures also confirm the ACT’s nation-leading rate for locking up indigenous men and women was the highest in Australia “and possibly in the world”, says leading indigenous advocate Julie Tongs.
“An Aboriginal person in Canberra is 24.6 times more likely to be sent to prison in Canberra than a non-Aboriginal person,” the CEO of the Winnunga Nimmityjah health centre says.
“Not only is this a significant increase on the Australia high crude imprisonment rate of indigenous incarceration reported last year, but significantly higher than the average rate across the rest of Australia, which is 17.4.
“It is also, by way of illustration, far higher than the Aboriginal incarceration rate of 14.2, in NSW.”
The Productivity Commission also reported that the age-standardised ratio of imprisonment of Aboriginal people in the ACT, at 19.6 times the non-Aboriginal rate, is also the highest in Australia.
“It is deeply concerning to reflect on the fact that despite the Australia-high level of funding allocated to the AMC and Corrections more broadly that not only does the ACT year after year lock up Aboriginal people at a higher rate than the rest of Australia but that the Aboriginal recidivism rate in the ACT, of more than 90 per cent, is also by far the highest in Australia,” says Ms Tongs.
“These shameful outcomes, repeated year after year, demand as a minimum a comprehensive evidence-based response. It is quite clear from the data repeated year after year on indigenous incarceration rates that whatever the ACT government is doing or purports to do to address this scandalous failing is not working.
“It is imperative, as a minimum that the government initiate a comprehensive inquiry, preferably with the powers of a Royal Commission, to inquire into the causes of the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canberra in touch with the justice system and or incarcerated.
“To persist with the current clearly inadequate and failed response to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canberra being sent to prison is in my opinion nothing short of obscene and it is also a concern to me that some may even argue that it is racist.”
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