The Victorian Greens’ welcome Labor's announcement of a Royal Commission into mental health and call on Daniel Andrews to ensure that it extends its investigation into the state's criminal justice and prison systems.
People with cognitive and mental health impairments are vastly overrepresented at all stages of the criminal justice system.
Victoria Police are often the first to respond to mental health incidents, and studies have indicated up to 55 per cent of defendants in court may have a mental illness.
In 2015, the Victorian Ombudsman reported that 40 per cent of prisoners in Victoria had been identified as having a mental health condition, which is two to three times higher than the reported rates in the general community, and that prisoners are also 10 to 15 times more likely to have a psychotic disorder than someone in the general community.
Multiple reports have found that despite the clear relationship between mental health and the justice system, Victoria's justice and corrections agencies are not equipped to manage the increasing number of complex cases in this area.
Addressing this issue is vital for the vulnerable people suffering in the system and those at risk, as well as those who want to see less crime and reoffending in the community.
Quotes attributable to Victorian Greens spokesperson for Justice, Sue Pennicuik
“You can’t have a Royal Commission into mental health without looking at where so many affected people are ending up – in our prisons.
"There is such a close link between mental health issues and a contact with the criminal justice system. By examining how Victoria's law enforcement, courts and corrections systems deal with complex mental health issues, we can reduce instances of offending and help people get access to the help they need.
"The Andrews Government has been preoccupied with tougher sentencing and building more and bigger prisons. There needs to be a complete rethink of how we approach crime with a focus on prevention and rehabilitation. The data shows that addressing issues related to mental health is a good place to start.”