Australian Institute of Criminology

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AIC Occasional Seminar Series

Arresting Indigenous imprisonment - past failures and future solutions

Dr Don Weatherburn
74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith ACT - FREE EVENT
11:00am-12:00pm (AEST), Thursday 10 July 2014

photo of Dr Don Weatherburn

The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody blamed the high death rate of Indigenous Australians in custody on the fact that Aboriginal imprisonment rates were much higher than non-Aboriginal imprisonment rates.

It made 339 recommendations to reduce this disparity. State and Federal Governments accepted all but one of the recommendations and the Keating Government set aside $400 million ($672 million) to put them into effect.

The reforms were an abject failure. In 1992, the Indigenous imprisonment rate stood at 1,438 per 100,000 people. By 2013, it had climbed to 2,335 per 100,000 people, an increase of 62 per cent. The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous imprisonment rates also widened. At the time of the Royal Commission, Indigenous Australians were about 14 times more likely to end up in prison than non-Indigenous Australians. By the end of 2013, they were 18 times more likely to end up in prison. This paper discusses why efforts to reduce Indigenous imprisonment failed and what might be done in future to get the rate of Indigenous imprisonment down.

Dr Don Weatherburn, Director, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Reseach

Dr Don Weatherburn has been Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in Sydney since 1988 and is an Adjunct Professor with the School of Social Science and Policy at the University of New South Wales.

He has published on a wide range of topics: including drug law enforcement policy, liquor-licensing enforcement, the economic and social correlates of crime, criminal justice administration, juvenile recidivism and crime prevention.

He has also published Delinquent-prone Communities (published by Cambridge University Press in 2001) and Law and Order in Australia: Rhetoric and Reality (published by Federation Press in 2004) and most recently Arresting incarceration: pathways out of Indigenous imprisonment (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2014)