An economic analysis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders: prison vs residential treatment

Description

Research studies have identified a disproportionate number of Indigenous Australians in the correctional system, and argued the importance of diverting young men and women away from a life of substance use and crime. It has been recommended that funding be redirected from the construction and operation of any further correctional system centres to establish a Ôbreak the cycleÕ network of Indigenous-specific residential rehabilitation services for courts to utilise as a viable alternative to incarceration. This study aims to: examine the patterns and prevalence of Indigenous people in the prison system; outline the impact and implications of incarceration of Indigenous people; and analyse the costs and benefits of addressing Indigenous problematic alcohol and drug use with treatment, particularly residential rehabilitation, as compared to prison. The research included a scan of relevant literature and data repositories, and consultations with key stakeholders, such as experts in the field of residential drug treatment, including in a custodial environment, staff of residential substance use treatment facilities delivering services to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, offenders and non-offenders, and magistrates from drug courts. Analysis of the study findings show that the total financial savings associated with diversion to community residential rehabilitation compared with prison are $111 458 per offender. It is concluded that: the costs of treatment in community residential rehabilitation services are substantially cheaper than prison; diversion would lead to substantial savings per offender of $96 446 (based on a cost of community residential rehabilitation treatment of $18 385 per offender); even if using the highest estimate of the cost per offender for residential rehabilitation treatment ($33 822), the saving would still be substantial, at around $81 000. In addition, he study finds that community residential treatment is also associated with better outcomes compared with prison: lower recidivism rates and better health outcomes, and thus savings in health system costs. The savings associated with these additional benefits of community residential treatment are approximately $15 012 per offender. Treatment of Indigenous offenders in the community rather than in prison is also associated with lower mortality and better health-related quality of life. In monetary terms, these non-financial benefits have been estimated at $92 759 per offender. As the residential treatment scenario involves lower cost and is associated with better outcomes than incarceration, it is clearly the more advantageous investment (Introduction and Conclusion, edited).

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© Australian National Council on Drugs 2013 This work is copyright. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced by any process without the written permission of the publisher.