VCOSS welcomes the 2016 Victorian Budget’s focus on diverting disadvantaged people away from the justice system and addressing the underlying causes of offending, by expanding the youth diversion program and continuing funding to the Koori women’s diversion program. The expansion of the Drug Court of Victoria also aims to keep people out of the prison system and reduce reoffending among people with drug dependencies.
Despite no new investment in prisons in this budget, the cost of running Victoria’s prisons is still more than $1 billion per year. We need a new approach to tackling crime that encourages rehabilitation and addresses the reasons people offend.
The funding for the Community Crime Prevention program recognises the importance of place-based responses that address the economic and social risk factors behind offending. The state government can build on this funding in future budgets by continuing to invest in justice reinvestment approaches to crime, that shift prison funding to community-based programs.
Initiatives at a glance
- $6.8m over two years to expand the youth diversion program and bail support programs
- $19.4m over four years for the Community Crime Prevention Program. This funding will provide grants and support to help local communities experiencing high crime and disadvantage address the underlying reasons for crime.
- $578m over four years for additional resources for Victoria Police. Includes an increase in frontline police numbers, technology upgrades, expanded forensic capability and a replacement and refurbishment program for police facilities in rural and regional areas.
- $30.9m to expand the Drug Court of Victoria to the Melbourne region.
- $1.6m over two years to continue three existing Koori women’s diversion programs.
- $900,000 in 2016-17 for an Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Program. Encourages young people facing disadvantage, including those at risk of involvement with the youth justice system, to remain engaged in education, training and community life.
- $8m over 2 years to improve family violence victims’ experiences of the justice system. Includes funding for more women to access sexual assault counselling and therapeutic recovery programs while in prison.
- $4.6m in 2016-17 for family violence legal assistance services. Funding for Victoria Legal Aid and community legal centres will allow existing programs to continue and assist services to respond to increased demand.
- $400,000 in 2016-17 for employment law service Job Watch.
- $50.9m in recurrent funding over four years and $7.2m in capital investment for court safety and security. Funding includes expansion of court security programs and delivery of upgrades in 16 priority courts that improve secure screening, interview rooms and provide separate waiting rooms for family violence victims and perpetrators.
- $201.4m over four years to strengthen community corrections and respond to growth in the number of offenders on community corrections orders.
- $84m over four years for the management of serious sex offenders. Funding responds to recommendations in the Harper Review, and includes additional forensic mental health services, a new 20-bed secure mental health facility for serious sex offenders and an 8-bed facility for people with a disability or acquired brain injury.
Future policy directions
- The new funding for the Drug Court will help reduce recidivism and improve outcomes for people with drug dependencies in the Melbourne region. However, many Victorians living outside the Melbourne and Dandenong regions are unable to access this program. The state government can help more Victorians with complex issues by expanding the Drug Court statewide, and continuing to invest in other problem solving court models, like the Neighbourhood Justice Centre and Koori Court.
- While the additional funding for family violence legal assistance is welcome, community legal centres face significant federal funding cuts over the next 2 years. If these cuts are not reversed, the justice gap is likely to worsen, and more people facing legal problems will be unable to access low cost assistance.
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