Media Release: A Constellation of Circumstances Report

MEDIA RELEASE: 7 JULY 2020

New report shows why women’s remand numbers must stay down

Authors of a new report A constellation of circumstances:  The Drivers of Women’s Increasing Rates of Remand in Victoria urge a review of Victoria’s strict bail laws, stating that decreases in prisoner numbers observed during the COVID-19 pandemic should be sustained and extended into the future. 

The report, published by Fitzroy Legal Service and La Trobe Centre for Health Law and Society, examined data from the Bail and Remand Court and analysed court observations and found that policing has become ‘tougher’ under Victoria’s new bail regime, significantly impacting on the rate of women being remanded.     

Dr Emma Russell, Senior Lecture in Crime, Justice and Legal Studies, at La Trobe University says:

“Ultimately, this study finds that women are particularly disadvantaged across a range of factors that are relevant to making an application for bail, including access to housing, personal relationships and family support, mental health and alcohol and drug supports. The so-called ‘risks’ that women present with in the courtroom are not indicators of community safety concerns. Instead, they are more likely to index women’s disadvantage and marginalisation.”

The time for reform of the bail laws is now.  The fact that the number of women in remand has decreased by around 27 per cent during the COVID pandemic provides a strong case for a continued focus on social and health issues as the primary consideration and imprisonment as a last resort.” 

Jill Faulkner, Manager of Women Transforming Justice, a program of Fitzroy Legal Service says:

“Significantly, the study indicates that there is a nexus between family violence, homelessness and women’s criminalisation.”

“The current COVID crisis should prompt a re-think of our priorities.  It has never been clearer that what is needed for community safety is government investment in long-term housing for women experiencing violence and poverty and community-based services for women who are at risk of being criminalised.”

The report can be accessed via the following links:

For media enquires:

Dr Emma Russell, La Trobe University – E.Russell@latrobe.edu.au

Jill Faulkner, Fitzroy Legal Service – Jfaulkner@fls.org.au