The Victorian Greens have called on the state government to urgently introduce new bail laws to help reduce the number of First Nations people being held in custody.
By simplifying the state’s current bail laws to ensure minor offenders aren’t imprisoned unless they pose an unacceptable risk to the community, the government would help to end the over-imprisonment of First Nations people in our jails.
Earlier this week Premier Andrews said he preferred to take “action” when it came to supporting and protecting First Nations communities, but his track record on incarceration to date has been dire.
While the Andrews Government has increased the number of prisoners in Victoria from November 2014 to February 2020 by 26 per cent, over the same time it increased the number of First Nations prisoners by 70 per cent and almost 40 per cent were not sentenced, on remand.
The Andrews Government now imprisons more First Nations people both in total and per head of population than any other Victorian Government on record, with ten per cent of our prison population identifying as Aboriginal.
Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read, said the recent Black Lives Matter protests had made it clear that people wanted to see justice for our First Nations communities, and that if the government didn’t act to change the state’s draconian bail laws, the Greens would.
The bail reform is just one part of a suite of actions the Greens are calling on the government to take to help support First Nations communities in the fight against over-imprisonment and racist policing.
The Greens reaffirm calls by Change the Record to end black deaths in custody by:
- The removal of mandatory sentencing, and return of non-custodial sentencing options, to give judges full discretion in determining the best sentence.
- Empowering IBAC to investigate all police complaints.
- Implement remaining recommendations of Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, including the immediate decriminalisation of public drunkenness, and requiring the investigations of deaths in custody to be independent of police.
- Recording and reporting of the race of those stopped by police.
- Raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.
- Provide housing for offenders, along with mental health and other rehabilitation, using the savings from reduced imprisonment.
As stated by Victorian Greens spokesperson for justice, Dr Tim Read:
“Aboriginal people are being imprisoned at an appallingly high rate in Victoria, as a direct result of policies put in place by this Andrews Labor Government.
“We know what needs to be done to reduce the incarceration rates of First Nations people in Victoria, this government just hasn’t had the political will to do it.
“Recent Black Lives Matter protests have shown us that Victorians care deeply about justice for our Aboriginal communities, and the government could act right now to help end over-imprisonment by making sure minor offenders can more easily be granted bail.”
As stated by Djab Wurrung and Gunditjmara advocate, Lidia Thorpe:
“Never before in our history have so many Aboriginal people been locked up in Victoria. It’s shocking that it’s happened under a so-called progressive Labor Government.
“We need a government that will act, not just talk the talk. This government has not just sat idle, but worse they have implemented the very policies that have dramatically increased the number of our people unjustly locked up.
“We must have action now, undeniably. We cannot stand just one more Aboriginal death in custody, one more Aboriginal person unfairly targeted, one more Aboriginal person subjected to systemic racism.”