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Let them work: how criminal justice reform can help address Australia’s worker shortage

Employment Job creation Sentencing Prisoners Law reform Australia

Australia is experiencing both an incarceration crisis and an unprecedented worker shortage. Sensible criminal justice reform can address the excessive burden on Australia’s prison system while also filling persistent job vacancies in the economy.

The total cost to the Australian taxpayer of imprisoning roughly 42,000 prisoners is now nearly $4.5 billion annually. Over-incarceration imposes an additional cost on Australians by depriving our labour force of healthy, working age men and women who could otherwise be productive members of society.

Approximately 42 per cent of prisoners have not committed sexual or violent offences. Not imprisoning these low-risk non-violent offenders would support, and most likely enhance, their rehabilitation. It has been firmly established that many employers are prepared to employ people who have prior convictions for non-violent and non-sexual offences, and when they do employ such people they are invariably pleased with their decision.

Diverting low-risk non-violent offenders from prison and giving them the opportunity to work would enhance their lives and prospects, promote community safety, improve the economy through increased productivity, and reduce net government spending and debt.

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