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Early intervention needed for young male Indigenous offenders

Media Release

21 February 2005

In an effort to reduce the level of drug-related crime, early intervention with young Indigenous men at their initial contact with the criminal justice system needs to be emphasised, the Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Toni Makkai said today.

Dr Makkai today released the latest report from the Australian Institute of Criminology, 'Indigenous male offending and substance abuse' which compares drug use and offending by Indigenous and non-Indigenous male offenders.

"The study compares Indigenous and non-Indigenous male offenders' drug use and offending with the objective of identifying how better to prevent and respond to drug-related crime", Dr Makkai said.

Indigenous male offenders were more likely to report:

  • Recent use of alcohol and were less likely to have recently used a wide range of illicit drugs;
  • Recent and intravenous use of amphetamines in urban locations; and
  • Higher rates of dependency on alcohol and cannabis, and lower rates of heroin dependency.

In terms of the direct link between drug use and offending, Indigenous male offenders were:

  • More likely to report using alcohol prior to arrest or the commission of an offence;
  • More likely to causally attribute their offending to alcohol intoxication; and
  • Less likely to have participated in the illicit drug trade by selling drugs.

Indigenous male offenders had been imprisoned more often than non-Indigenous offenders and regularly offended at a younger age. Indigenous male offenders were, on average, younger, less educated, less likely to be employed and less likely to have stable living arrangements than non-Indigenous male offenders.

When young Indigenous men first have contact with the criminal justice system, there should be specific strategies and programs to address and prevent their abuse of alcohol, cannabis and inhalants, Dr Makkai said. Other interventions suggested by the results include:

  • Crime prevention measures that reduce excessive alcohol intoxication, either alone or in combination with illicit drugs.
  • Indigenous community awareness and drug education programs that focus on alcohol, cannabis and amphetamines.
  • Strategies that aim to reduce intravenous drug use by urban Indigenous male offenders.

Data used in this paper are from the AIC's Drug use in Australia monitoring program, and from the survey of adult male prisoners conducted as part of the Drug use careers of offenders project.