WATCH: Murri Court relieves CQ's prison pressure
CENTRAL Queensland correctional centres and their inmates are set to be the major beneficiaries from the re-instated Murri Court system.
Launched yesterday, the $8.7 million program, spread over 13 Queensland centres including Rockhampton, draws on traditional Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander cultural laws to relive pressure on the justice system and correctional centres.
And with 80 mattresses on the floor at Capricorn Correctional Centre, Darumbal elder Dean Edmund said the Murri Court was fundamental in the representation of the Indigenous offenders in the justice system.
"We find as elders in this community that involvement in the Murri Court gives us greater involvement in the justice system, in the top of the justice system rather than scrambling around as victims at the bottom of the justice system," Mr Edmund said.
"The Murri Court brings cultural law in together with main stream law so that when offenders come in they see elders in the courtroom situation and have more respect for the laws and acknowledge them a little bit more than what they normally do in a courtroom without the elders.
"The penalties are community based penalties, they are there as options for the magistrates to avoid sending them to prison.
"While there is no Murri Court a lot of offenders are going to court for minor crimes or petty crimes."
Minister for Corrective Services, Bill Byrne said each prison cell cost $1 million to build and a housing a prisoner for one year came with a $70,000 bill.
"This front end diversion program is very much about taking those offenders who meet a certain profile and plead guilty to their offences away from the prospects of entering formal justice programs," Mr Byrne said.
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said it was important to supply courts, judges and magistrates the opportunity to use diversionary programs to ensure the rehabilitation of offenders.
"The Murri Court is a very important one when we know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over represented through our justice system, in our corrective services and in our youth detention centres," Ms D'Ath said.
"We know through a program like the Murri Court where we are working directly with our elders that this can be a very positive process."