Monday, January 31, 2011

Reducing Indigenous Contact with the Court System

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research released a paper in December 2010, entitled "Reducing Indigenous Contact with the Court System".

Highlights from the BOCSAR media release:
  • In 2009, Indigenous Australians constituted less than 2 per cent of the NSW population but accounted for 13 per cent of all persons charged with a criminal offence. The Bureau estimates that more than 80 per cent of Indigenous defendants currently appearing in court will at some stage return, most within less than two years. 
  • A 10 per cent reduction in the return rate would reduce the number of Indigenous court appearances by 2,558 per annum or approximately 32 per cent. A 20 per cent reduction in the rate of return would virtually halve the number of Indigenous people turning up in court, reducing the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous court appearances from 1 in every 9.6 cases to 1 in every 18.6 cases. 
  • According to the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, the best way to reduce the rate of Indigenous re-offending is through effective rehabilitation programs. 
“Programs that combine intensive supervision with treatment have been found to produce an average 16 per cent reduction in reoffending. Given the strong influence that drug and alcohol abuse have on the risk of Indigenous arrest, it would also seem prudent to increase Indigenous access to drug and alcohol treatment."
In the Illawarra Mercury on Monday 24/1/11, Michelle Webster reports reaction to the BOCSAR paper on the South Coast. Veteran Aboriginal Legal Service solicitor Gary Pudney told the Mercury that indigenous reoffending could be cut through improved access to rehabilitation programs, but said many offenders were missing out on effective treatments because of a lack of available places.

"The best way to get people out of the criminal justice system is to get them employed and the best way to get them employed is to get them off drugs and alcohol.

"But there is a lack of places in these programs. We can spend days or weeks calling trying to get someone in," Mr Pudney said.

According to the the article, a spokesman for the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said that the government was trying to reduce the over-representation of indigenous people in the court system through a number of court-based and rehabilitative programs.

Recently, Barry O'Farrell pledged an additional $10 million to expand rehabilitation places.

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