QCOSS is making a submission to this inquiry because people who are experiencing disadvantage are often more vulnerable to legal problems and are disproportionately represented in the justice system, leading to a criminalisation of poverty and disadvantage. This is most obvious in the criminalisation of people experiencing homelessness (given the leading cause of homelessness is a lack of affordable housing).
Many of these problems are caused by a system failure of various institutions not working together, for example corrections working more closely with health and housing to ensure people are not exited to homelessness. Supports can be siloed, complex and difficult to access and navigate when urgently needed. Problems also occur simply because people have inadequate income, making them more vulnerable outside of the prison system.
QCOSS congratulates the QPC on the Draft Report as it contains many valuable proposals for reform that, if implemented, will contribute to reducing imprisonment and recidivism.
QCOSS recommends the following actions be taken:
- Implement recommendations from previous inquiries and reports – governments must promptly implement the many recommendations from previous inquiries and reports. (In support of QPC Draft Recommendations 13 and 14.)
- Challenge the false ‘tough on crime’ narrative with regular reporting – politicians and the media must end the counter-productive ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric. Government bodies can influence this with timely and accurate reporting of relevant data. (In support of QPC Draft Recommendations 17 and 18.)
- Follow a human rights framework – the criminal justice system (from policy makers to prisons) must adhere to a human rights framework as formulated in the new Queensland Human Rights Act 2018.
- Improve rehabilitation by targeting prevention and early intervention – adequately fund support services so that they support people before they encounter the criminal justice system, through to transitioning back to community. (In support of QPC Draft Recommendations 9, 10, 11, 12 and 15.)
- Reduce scope of criminal offences, ensure proportionality and expand diversionary options – implement alternatives to imprisonment and decriminalise illicit drug use and sex work. (In support of QPC Draft Recommendations 1, 2, 4, 5 and 16.)
- Implement place-based justice reinvestment – make the Cherbourg justice reinvestment trial permanent, implement learnings from this and the trial in Burke, NSW.
- Improve protections for groups more likely to experience disadvantage and who are vulnerable to injustice – these include those financial excluded, First Nations people, people living with a disability and people experiencing homelessness.