ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Inquiry into Community Corrections Report 'Missed Opportunity'

28 July 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed the release of the ACT Legislative Assembly Inquiry into Community Corrections report but called it a ‘missed opportunity’ to bring meaningful change to the ACT’s justice system.

In June 2021, the ACT Legislative Assembly Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety initiated an inquiry into the scope and functions of community corrections in the ACT. The Committee has released its report with 13 recommendations to the ACT government including:

  • A review of funding models for justice housing to reduce instances of detainees being released into homelessness or facing prolonged detention due to lack of housing
  • Exploration of opportunities for more community service sentencing
  • Promotion of education and employment opportunities to individuals in the community corrections system
  • Ensuring that individuals on community corrections orders can access culturally safe alcohol and other drug treatment.

Rachelle Kelly-Church, Head of the Gulanga Program said: “The recommendations fail to specify practical, immediate action to reduce the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people subject to custodial sentences instead of community corrections orders.

“The expansion of community corrections orders is a critical pathway to reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our justice system as it allows detainees to remain in contact with family, community and culture.

“We also know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lower than average completion rates of community corrections orders. Yet there are no recommendations on how to improve the cultural safety and appropriateness of the community corrections system in the ACT.

“All members of the Legislative Assembly are well aware of the statistics regarding the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system.

“If community completion rates and rehabilitation outcomes for Aboriginal people are to be improved then more must be done to remove discrimination and racism from our community corrections and broader justice system,” said Ms Kelly-Church.

ACTCOSS CEO, Dr Emma Campbell said: “ACTCOSS, and many other stakeholders named in the report, have been calling for more drastic action to improve outcomes for people in the justice system.

“While we welcome some of the recommendations, including more investment in housing, drug and alcohol services and educational opportunities, we are disappointed by the lack of recommendations targeting the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, people with disability and people with mental ill health who are over-represented in the justice system.

“The Committee has also failed to heed calls for increased transparency and oversight of the community corrections system and the need for additional funding of community legal services.

“ACTCOSS is also concerned that some of the recommendations may, in fact, lead to increased breaches and incarceration.

“This includes the expansion of electronic monitoring as part of community corrections orders and the removal of temporary powers for a Community Corrections Officer to apply discretion for non-compliance with corrections orders due to COVID-19.

“Before these changes are contemplated, we urge the ACT Government to carry out significant consultation with the community,” said Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS’s submission to the ACT Legislative Assembly’s inquiry into community corrections in the ACT can be found on the ACTCOSS website.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910617.