The Lowitja Institute is Australia’s national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. The Institute has published a report: Views on Alternatives to Imprisonment: A Citizens Jury Approach.
Alarming over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian prisons, combined with high recidivism rates and poor health and social outcomes among those released from prison, has led many to claim that incarceration is a social policy failure.
An important obstacle to a reform agenda in the criminal justice area is public opinion. The public are often perceived to hold punitive attitudes towards offenders, a situation often exploited by politicians to perpetuate punitive penal policies at the expense of developing decarceration initiatives.
However, alternatives to public opinion surveys/polls are needed. Citizens Juries offer an alternative method to assess the public’s views, views that are critically informed and thus better aid policy development.
The report explores, through Citizens Juries, the views of a better informed public towards how we, as a community, should address offenders in terms of incarceration and incarceration alternatives. The research focused on a range of incarceration alternatives including Justice Reinvestment.