Exploring the Potential of Justice Reinvestment in Cowra - Community Report

18 January 2018

Cowra, in central west New South Wales, is in the Federal electorate of Hume and the state electorate of Cootamundra.

This research project was designed to work with the community to enable them to set their priorities for how they would like money that is currently spent on incarcerating their citizens reinvested back into the community.

The project was led by Dr Jill Guthrie with colleagues from the Australian National University (ANU), the University of New South Wales and other organisations.

It was guided by a reference group of representatives from the Cowra Aboriginal Land Council, Cowra Shire Council and other local and international experts.

The project tested the research methodology and theory of Justice Reinvestment (JR), a framework for rethinking the criminal justice system in terms of value for money invested.

Within a JR approach, taxpayer money is not spent imprisoning people for low-level criminal activity; instead, that money is reinvested into the community where those people live. JR requires a shift in policy and social outlook from one of incarceration to one of non-incarceration and investing in the community and in people.

It requires involvement by governments at all levels (federal, state and local, as well as Indigenous governance), non-government organisations, service providers, the business sector, the education, employment and health sectors, the police and the judiciary.

Sixty-two young people participated in focus groups, 14 young people in individual face-to-face interviews, and four parents and 32 service providers in focus groups or interviews.

Four Community forums were held – each with the aim of exploring the concepts of JR and its possibilities – culminating in community decisions about how to re-invest monies currently spent on incarcerating its citizens for the low-level criminal activities which it ranked as ‘JR-amenable’.

Another important outcome of the research was a Resolution, passed by Cowra Shire Council, which supported the concept of JR and determined that Council would advocate the merits of JR to policymakers and funders and seek intergovernmental collaboration to establish a JR pilot in Cowra.

You are invited to read about the research project and its findings in the Community Report.