In September 2018, the Queensland government asked the Commission to undertake an inquiry into imprisonment and recidivism in Queensland.
The inquiry has been commissioned in response to concerns about increases in prisoner numbers and high rates of recidivism. The number of people in Queensland prisons has risen by more than 50 per cent in the five years to 2017, and more than half of prisoners reoffend and are given a new sentence within two years of their release. The rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continues to outstrip the rate for the rest of the population, and imprisonment rates for women have been increasing faster than for men.
The growth in prisoner numbers has significant social and economic implications for affected individuals and their families, the wider community and for the Queensland government.
There are many complex and interrelated issues that play a role in whether an individual commits an offence and is sentenced to a prison term, and whether that individual goes on to reoffend after their prison term has been served.
Although this inquiry is broad in scope—it involves many parts of the criminal justice system, as well as multiple other services—the focus of this inquiry is not a detailed operational review of each of these elements. Rather, the Commission will investigate those factors that are likely to have the greatest impacts on the social and financial costs (and benefits) of imprisonment and recidivism.
There have been at least 10 major reviews of aspects of the Queensland criminal justice system over the past decade, with many recommendations still being implemented today. This inquiry will need to build on and add value to these efforts.