Reducing over-incarceration: Arrest as a last resort

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, young people and the those experiencing homelessness are incarcerated at much higher rates than the general population.

Policing practices, and the daily decisions made by individual police officers, contribute to this systemic bias. This is why we work to hold police accountable for the decisions around when arrests are made, particularly in relation to breaches of bail.

PIAC has represented a number of people who were arrested by police for allegedly not complying with their bail conditions. In some cases, NSW Police have failed to consider the trivial nature of the breach, nor have they considered any alternative course of action.

In other instances, NSW Police have arrested people where there has been no breach of bail at all. As a result of these improper or unlawful arrests, people are held in custody for many hours, or possibly overnight, only to be released again on bail by a court.

In 2021 the NSW Select Committee on the High Level of First Nations People in Custody and Oversight and Review of Deaths in Custody adopted PIAC’s recommendation that the legislation be clarified to enshrine arrest and detention as a last resort for both adults and children. It is critical that the NSW Parliament now puts this into practice.

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