16th Reintegration Puzzle Conference

Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre
1-3 March 2023

Changing Seasons,
Changing Lives

Panel Discussion: Jailing is Failing: Bringing About Change in the Justice System. Advocacy, Reducing Incarceration and Building a Movement

On the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s imprisonment rate had soared to its highest level in over a century. Only two countries in the world, Turkey and Colombia, saw a greater growth in imprisonment between 2003 and 2018. The Productivity Commission noted in its report last year that the justice system is failing at enormous expense to taxpayers. This report joins three decades of government-led reports and inquiries that have identified; the failure of imprisonment to achieve its intended crime control ambitions, the failure of imprisonment to address the social drivers of incarceration (particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations), and the way in which so many people with complex mental health conditions and disabilities are ‘managed’ in criminal justice system settings rather than supported in the community. This panel discussion seeks to explore the gap between the evidence about the need for change, and the political will to make change and think about what we as practitioners, researchers, and experts can do differently to bring about change. Given the astounding volume of reports, academic publications and government inquiries and commissions that outline clearly the failure of imprisonment, alongside the practitioner and lived experience expertise and evidence that exists about what works, this panel will explore, where to next? How do we build and use the evidence to assist in a movement for change? How do we bring together the voices of diverse advocates and activists to influence structural, political and systems change.  This panel will also introduce the work of the Justice Reform Initiative, a new national advocacy organisation looking to reduce incarceration, change the public narrative about ‘law and order’, and work with political leaders on all sides of politics to embrace evidence-based alternatives to imprisonment.


Mindy Sotiri: Panel Chair
Executive Director
, Justice Reform Initiative

Mindy Sotiri BSW (UNSW) PhD (UNSW) has worked as an advocate, researcher, and community worker in reintegration and post-release support for twenty years. She has been in her current role for the last seven years, and in this capacity has been responsible for researching, developing and implementing evidence based best-practice with complex needs populations across a range of different program areas. Mindy serves on the Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Board, is currently the community sector representative on the multi-agency High Risk Offender Assessment Committee, and is regularly called on to provide expert advice on community based post-release to both government and the NGO sector. In 2016 she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to continue her research into best practice in post release in the international context.

Denis Reynolds
Justice Reform Initiative

Denis Reynolds was born in Subiaco, Perth. He graduated from UWA with a Bachelors of law and jurisprudence.
Denis was a Magistrate from 1984-1997 and then Commissioner of the District Court of WA from 1997-2004.
He was a Judge of the District Court of WA from 2004-2018, including being the Senior Judge from 2016-2018 and President of the Children’s Court of WA 2004-2018.
Denis was the 2012 WA Citizen of the year in the Community category.

Rocket Bretherton
Advocate and Campaigner
, Justice Reform Initiative

Rocket Bretherton has experience as a campaigner and advocate, and also has deep subject matter expertise as a consequence of her own experience in the NT justice system. Rocket has been working for the last three years to raise public awareness of the failings of the justice system. A little bit more about Rocket can be seen here https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-14/rocket-power-storytelling-birds-eye-view-podcast-darwin-prison/12060358 and the link to her amazing work on the Birds Eye View podcast can be listened to here https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/birds-eye-view/id1499065496 

Photo by Nicholas Walton-Healey for The NT Lived Experience Network, Darwin, 2022

Leanne Liddle
Co-Chair and NT 2022 Aust of the Year
, Menzies School of Health Research

Born and raised in Alice Springs, Central Arrernte woman Leanne Liddle has a passion for justice. As Director of the Aboriginal Justice Unit, she’s travelled thousands of kilometres to meet and listen to Aboriginal communities across the Northern Territory. Leanne is the driving force behind the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Agreement, which, in partnership with Aboriginal people aims to:

  • reduce imprisonment rates
  • increase Aboriginal leadership and;
  • improve justice outcomes for Aboriginal Territorians.

Leanne was South Australia’s first Aboriginal policewoman. During her decade of service, she experienced racism and abuse that she fought and used to fuel her passion to make a difference in justice. Leanne went on to complete a law degree and has since worked for the United Nations, and in several high-profile government roles, before joining the Aboriginal Justice Unit in 2017. Leanne is committed to empowering Aboriginal Territorians with justice solutions that will work where others have failed.