Keeping Communities at the Centre of Justice Reinvestment

September 7, 2020

We're thrilled to launch our latest report, written for JustSpeak by Professor Elizabeth Stanley and Joe Potter of Victoria University, which explores the potential of justice reinvestment as an alternative to the ongoing expansion of a punitive criminal justice system.

"It is abundantly clear that our current system of criminal justice, which relies on disproportionate levels of criminalisation, enforcement and adversarial approaches is not working for us, and cannot remain in place. Yet, what to do next? It is one thing to to call for change, another to build new solutions. Our criminal justice habits are hard to break."

Justice reinvestment programmes take many forms, but most share a simple aim: to redirect spending on criminal justice into social justice initiatives that strengthen communities and reduce social harms, including offending behaviours. Professor Stanley's report looks at international examples of justice reinvestment projects, notably the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment project in Bourke, New South Wales, and suggests three key factors that successful projects share - they are community-led, place-based and data-driven.

"'Good' justice reinvestment (JR) centralises communities as experts, and places indigenous voices, culture, authority and knowledge at the forefront of appropriate solutions and services. "

Rather than finding problems with the members of those communities, JR challenges the social, cultural, economic or political conditions as well as the institutional activities that create the conditions for certain kinds of offending behaviours and responses to happen.

JR projects work with accurate, transparent data as evidence for change – to direct strategic decision-making, build and assess programmes, or to evaluate the subsequent benefits that accrue to communities.

At a time when conversations about the way forward for justice  in Aotearoa seem to have stalled, with multiple damning reports but no meaningful action from Government, JR is a road map for transformation that puts the needs, and the strengths, of communities at the centre. We hope it sparks much needed conversation, but mostly we hope it sparks action.