The Christian Church has always had a concern for the prisoner: in Jesus time as now, people experiencing poverty and trauma are more likely to fall foul of the justice system, more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to have access legal and social support. The Gospel of Jesus also speaks of liberation for captives and the inclusion of people otherwise excluded from society.
September 2016 the Uniting Church in Western Australia noted the long-held advocacy of the Synod of Western Australia for restorative and rehabilitative justice practices across the WA justice system, including the condemnation of mandatory sentencing. We acknowledged that the persistent and growing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system, particularly among young people and particularly in WA, necessitates an urgent overhaul of the WA Government’s policies relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We wrote to the WA Premier and Opposition Leader requesting their support for a change in approach to criminal justice towards a more holistic, prevention-based approach that prioritises cultural, social, and emotional wellbeing among people at risk of incarceration. We also encouraged our members and agencies to support, expand or create rehabilitative, restorative and preventative alternatives to incarceration that align with best practice approaches.
What are the issues now?
WA incarcerates Aboriginal people at the highest rates per population in the world. In our state, nearly 45 percent of the adults, and 78 percent of the children we send to prison are Aboriginal. Deaths of Aboriginal people in custody continue, young people’s dignity is not upheld in detention, as seen recently at the Don Dale children’s prison in the Northern Territory, and our people face the highest recidivism rates in an endless cycle of imprisonment. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are also taken into formal care at a greater disproportionate rate than any other jurisdiction in Australia. A new approach is desperately needed.
Social Reinvestment WA
Social Reinvestment WA (SRWA) is an Aboriginal led coalition of twenty five not-for-profit organisations, who share a vision for an effective and connected approach to justice in Western Australia. Advocating for policies that prioritise healthy families, implement smart justice, and create safe communities, for all Western Australians.
SRWA have launched the “Stories from the Inside” campaign to raise awareness of the ways in which our justice system fails vulnerable people. It is a call to action, to all Western Australians, to rethink the way we approach vulnerable and marginalised people.
There are multiple ways to get involved, with SRWA recognising the need for a holistic approach to be taken by all. To discover more about the campaign visit the SRWA website.