Justice System

Harmful alcohol and other drug use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is closely linked to an increased risk of contact with the justice system and spending time in prison [30136]. This means that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who enter prison already have an alcohol or other drug use dependence [21017][30615]. Being incarcerated separates people from family and culture, and impacts on a person’s capacity to maintain connection with employment, education and community. Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are particularly affected, with many young detainees transported a long way from their communities [33707]. Spending time in prison also exposes people to many additional harms including unsafe practices such as sharing needles [19317].

A number of strategies have been developed to keep people out of prison such as justice reinvestment and diversion programs. Justice reinvestment is an approach that reinvests resources back into communities that would normally be spent on incarceration. Community members are involved in identifying key areas that need to be addressed and designing solutions to tackle the underlying causes of crime. It is a broad based approach that recognises the link between social disadvantage and offending [30136].

Diversion programs also aim to keep people out of prison. They include court programs such as drug courts which aim to reduce re-offending and crime related to drug use by offering participants the opportunity to address their alcohol or other drug dependence through counselling and support [22997]. Diversion programs have been shown to work most effectively for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when they have been culturally adapted to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants.


Key resources



Living and Hunting Together by Melanie Robinson

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