Swelling NSW prison population stressing already-stretched courts system, Law Society says

NSW Law Society suggests steps the government needs to make to tackle the problem

Swelling NSW prison population stressing already-stretched courts system, Law Society says

The Law Society of New South Wales has said that the continued burgeoning of the NSW prison population is stressing the state’s already-stretched courts.

Richard Harvey, president of the NSW Law Society, said that the body has repeatedly raised concerns on behalf of the state’s solicitors, who are concerned about the continued growth of the numbers in the state’s prisons and the justice system.

The call is being made by the Law Society after the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) revealed that the NSW prison population grew by 3.6%, or 470 people, in 2019 to 13,635. This is approaching an all-time high, Harvey said.

“The high prison population is putting significant pressure upon an already-struggling system, resulting in a substantial and continually increasing backlog in our courts and delays in justice – all at a time when our legal aid system is under increasing pressure,” he said. “The ongoing increases in the NSW prison population, as confirmed in these latest figures, coincide with a record investment in our state’s prisons.”

The NSW Law Society president said that incarceration is expansive, with figures suggesting that the daily cost of keeping one person in custody amounts to more than $180. He suggested steps the government can take to tackle the problem.

“It’s clear that instead of pouring money into the prisons, the NSW government needs to invest in early intervention strategies, expand the NSW Drug Court to Dubbo, better resource community-based health treatment such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres and introduce further reforms to better enable courts to impose alternatives to full time imprisonment,” he said.

The law society also called for a coordinated national response by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

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