Two former governors-general and some of Australia's most respected legal minds are calling for major reforms to fix the country's "broken" prison system.
Quentin Bryce and William Deane have joined ex-judges, former police and prosecutors, politicians and prominent Indigenous leaders determined to reduce rising prison rates.
Australia's prison rate per capita is higher than any time since federation.
More than 43,000 adults are behind bars across the country, almost double the national prisoner population in 2000.
Australia has the third-highest prison population rates in the OECD, ahead of Canada and all western European countries.
Only the United States and New Zealand have higher rates.
The Justice Reform Initiative will begin briefing state and federal politicians this week on alternatives such as community orders, vocational courses for young offenders and rehabilitation for drug-addicted people.
The group, chaired by former Keating government minister Robert Tickner, argues the country's reliance on jails is failing on every front.
The argue people who pose no real risk to community safety are being locked up for relatively trivial offences.
"The revolving prison door is bad for families and communities and entrenches disadvantage," Mr Tickner said on Tuesday.
"It wastes human potential and is scandalously wasteful of public money that could be spent on enhancing the wellbeing and productivity of communities."
Australian Associated Press