Indigenous Incarceration Set to Cost $20B by 2040
29 May 2017 at 5:00 pm
The over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is costing nearly $8 billion annually and will grow to almost $20 billion per annum by 2040 without further intervention, a new report has found.
The PwC Australia and PwC Australia’s Indigenous Consulting report was released on Friday on the eve of the anniversary of the landmark 1967 referendum and this week’s National Reconciliation week.
The report found despite numerous reports and reviews, including the landmark Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, federal governments have failed to close the gap of incarceration rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
According to the latest figures, in the 26 years since the royal commission, the prison population that is Indigenous has doubled.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that while Indigenous people represent only 3 per cent of Australia’s population, they make up 27 per cent of the prison population and 55 percent of youth detention.
Indigenous men are 11 times more likely to be imprisoned, indigenous women are 15 times more likely and Indigenous youth are imprisoned at 25 times the rate of non-indigenous youth.
The PwC report said the gap between incarceration rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people was “fundamentally unfair” and not only did it have detrimental consequences on individuals, their families and their communities it also has significant impact on the Australian economy.
“Our modelling shows that Indigenous incarceration is costing the Australian economy $7.9 billion per year and this cost is rising,” the report said.
“If nothing is done to address disproportionately high rates of Indigenous incarceration, this cost will rise to $9.7 billion per year in 2020 and $19.8 billion per year in 2040.”
The report called for action to address “the unfair, unsafe and unaffordable situation” and made six recommendations from self-determination, system and law reform, and greater community awareness to investment in early-prevention and reintegration programs.
Law Council of Australia President Fiona McLeod said achieving reconciliation should be considered a national priority.
She said reconciliation “runs hand-in-hand” with efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“As we reflect on National Reconciliation Week, there remains a critical need to address the widening justice gap. Indigenous incarceration rates are continuing to rise and all governments share responsibility,” McLeod said.
“The PwC report makes a range of excellent evidence-based recommendations that align with Law Council positions.
“These include identifying opportunities for Indigenous self-determination, designing better throughcare and reintegration programs to reduce recidivism, improving cultural awareness, investing more in prevention and early intervention, and establishing hard targets to measure national progress.”