Report Highlights Disadvantage Among Indigenous Offenders

A report finds that Indigenous offenders sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria are more likely to receive a term in prison rather than an order supervised in the community than their non- Indigenous counterparts.

The report by the Sentencing Advisory Council, Comparing Sentencing Outcomes for Koori and non-Koori Adult Offenders in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, presents data on sentencing outcomes for Koori and non-Koori offenders who have been sentenced to imprisonment, partially suspended sentences, intensive correction orders and community-based orders.

The study found that Indigenous prisoners are more likely to have problems with drug and alcohol use, to have poor education and employment histories, to have had contact with the child protection system, to have been held in youth detention or in adult prisons and to have breached previous orders.

Professor Arie Freiberg, Chair of the Sentencing Advisory Council said, “The causes of over-representation of Indigenous people in Victoria’s prisons are multifaceted. Indigenous offenders in Victoria are more likely to experience a number of factors that increase their risk for criminal behaviour. These factors are most likely a result of the ongoing consequences of historical disadvantage that this population has faced over many generations.”

“The complexity of physical and mental health issues found among Indigenous offenders suggests that the issue of over-representation is one that requires an appreciation of the high levels of disadvantage faced by Indigenous people across a number of domains.”

Wayne Muir, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, commended the Council’s report, saying that it provided new data and valuable insights.

He said that the report needs to be followed up with work on police practices, including an examination of charging practices against Koori alleged offenders. Muir also called for further work on the experience of Kooris in the youth justice system, with a focus on those in detention, who are among the most vulnerable in society.

Muir noted that many young Koori offenders have come directly out of the child protection system, but Victoria does not have any evidence on the number of such young people or the problems that they face, such as mental health issues and drug and alcohol use.

The Comparing Sentencing Outcomes for Koori and non-Koori Adult Offenders in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria paper is available for download from the Sentencing Advisory Council website.
 

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