The Productivity Commission Report on Corrective Services released earlier this week reveals that the ACT, yet again and shamefully, continues to lock up Indigenous men and women at the highest rate in Australia and possibly in the world.
An Aboriginal person in Canberra is 24.6 times more likely to be sent to prison in Canberra than a non-Aboriginal person. Not only is this a significant increase on the Australia high crude imprisonment rate of Indigenous incarceration reported last year but significantly higher than the average rate across the rest of Australia, which is 17.4.
It is also, by way of illustration far higher than the Aboriginal incarceration rate of 14.2, in NSW.
The Productivity Commission has also reported that the age-standardised ratio of imprisonment of Aboriginal people in the ACT, at 19.6 times the non-Aboriginal rate is also the highest in Australia.
Revealingly the ACT is also reported as having the third highest rate of Aboriginal people either imprisoned or under a community corrections order.
To provide some context to the gravity of the ACT Governments failure to address the massive over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in Canberra caught up in the criminal justice system it is a failure that clearly has little to do with the funding of the corrections infrastructure, namely the AMC and other places of detention. In this regard the Productivity Commission reports that the real net operating expenditure, in 2022-23 on the AMC and community corrections was $100.8 million.
The Commission goes on to report that the net operating expenditure, per prisoner, per day in the ACT in 2022-23 was $ 543.19. This is by far the highest in Australia. The average across all jurisdictions was $305.50 while by way of example the rate in Queensland was $251.0 and in NSW it was $298.33.
It is deeply concerning to reflect on the fact that despite the Australia high level of funding allocated to the AMC and Corrections more broadly that not only does the ACT year after year lock up Aboriginal people at a higher rate than the rest of Australia but that the Aboriginal recidivism rate in the ACT, of more than 90%, is also by far the highest in Australia.
These shameful outcomes, repeated year after year, demand as a minimum a comprehensive evidence-based response. It is quite clear from the data repeated year after year on Indigenous incarceration rates that whatever the ACT Government is doing or purports to do to address this scandalous failing is not working.
It is imperative, as a minimum that the Government initiate a comprehensive inquiry, preferably with the powers of a Royal Commission to inquire into the causes of the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canberra in touch with the justice system and or incarcerated.
To persist with the current clearly inadequate and failed response to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Canberra being sent to prison is in my opinion nothing short of obscene and it is also a concern to me that some may even argue that it is racist.