THERE are just over 29,000 prisoners incarcerated across Australia; 26 per cent of them (7656) are Indigenous.
Indigenous adults are now 14 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous people.
Deloitte Access Economics assessed the costs and benefits of investing in community based residential alcohol and other drug treatment as opposed to incarcerating Indigenous people with substance use problems convicted of non violent crimes.
The report showed clear evidence that offenders with multiple terms of incarceration are more likely to return to prison and are more likely to be indigenous.
The report concluded there were considerable benefits associated with the diversion of indigenous prisoners into community residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services instead of incarceration.
Diversion is associated with both financial savings as well as improvements in health and mortality.
In 2010–2011 more than $3 billion was spent on Australian prisons.
At the same time the National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee of the Australian National Council on Drugs said funding for numerous services to assist indigenous people with drug and alcohol problem had been reduced or stopped by governments.