Homelessness and Contact with the Criminal Justice System: Insights from Specialist Lawyers and Allied Professionals in Australia
Lawyers and allied professionals who have experience supporting, advising and representing people experiencing homelessness are uniquely placed to identify problems with the operation of the criminal justice system—from policing to courts to punishment—and to conceive reform options. This article reports the findings of qualitative interviews with lawyers and allied professionals in all Australian states and territories. Participants identified multiple points where decisions about criminal law enforcement fail to take adequate account of the complex factors that underlie ‘offending’ by people experiencing homelessness, producing outcomes that exacerbate disadvantage. They advanced a range of proposals for reform directed at breaking the nexus between homelessness and criminalisation, including re-conception of the role of police, adoption of therapeutic jurisprudence (or ‘solution-focused’) models in criminal courts, and major changes to the use of fines as a criminal punishment.
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