The Uniting Church in Western Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress WA hold grave concern over the impacts that proposed changes to the Criminal Law Amendment (Home Burglary and Other Offences) Bill 2014 currently before the Western Australian parliament will have on young Aboriginal people.

Chair of the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress WA, Rev Sealin Garlett said, “We work every day to give our people, especially our young people, the best opportunities to reach their potential. Locking them up is not going to help. We need the Government to help us reduce the number of Aboriginal people in jail, not increase it with these hard-line mandatory sentencing laws. We invite the Government to sit down with us to discuss the best ways to address some of the challenges facing our communities.”

Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia, Rev Steve Francis questioned the effectiveness of mandatory sentencing laws in contributing towards the long-term safety of the Western Australian community. Rev Francis said, “Not only is there a lack of evidence for the efficacy of mandatory sentencing in reducing crime, we are worried that there will be a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal people, particularly young people given that the expanded reach of the proposed three strikes legislation is likely to increase incarceration rates for 16 and 17 year olds.”

Rev Francis noted that Western Australia already has the highest incarceration rate for Indigenous young people in the nation which will likely increase if these proposed amendments are made.

“We believe a fundamental shift is required in the Western Australian justice system based in research into effective alternatives to prison. We would strongly recommend a move towards diversionary measures and the justice reinvestment model. Instead of putting more money into the incarceration of more young Aboriginal people, we urge the State Government to invest in widespread community engagement and crime prevention measures. This starts with the withdrawal of the proposed amendments to the three strikes mandatory sentencing laws.”

The Uniting Church in Western Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal & Islander Christian Congress WA have been active in the areas of prison justice and prison ministry throughout their history, and continue to provide chaplaincy and post-release programs through our agency, UnitingCare West.

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