Arresting incarceration : pathways out of Indigenous by Don Weatherburn

By Don Weatherburn


Despite sweeping reforms by means of the Keating executive following the 1991 Royal fee into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the speed of Indigenous imprisonment has soared. What has long past mistaken? In Arresting incarceration, Dr Don Weatherburn charts the occasions that ended in royal fee. He additionally argues that prior efforts to minimize the variety of Aboriginal Australians in legal have didn't accurately tackle the underlying motives of Indigenous involvement in violent crime; particularly drug and alcohol abuse, baby overlook and abuse, negative institution functionality and unemployment.  Read more...

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Between 1883 and 1900, the number of Indigenous prisoners on Rottnest Island fell from 167 to 50 (Green & Moon 1997). By 1915 the percentage of Indigenous prisoners in Western Australia had fallen to less than 13 per cent. By 1949 it had fallen to just nine per cent of the total prison population (Midford 1988). This low rate seems to have been maintained until the late 1960s (Broadhurst 1987; Finnane & McGuire 2001; Midford 1988). 79 per cent in 1946, female prisoners fell from 5 per cent to zero over the same period (Finnane & Richards 2010, p.

They were no less scathing than other observers about the failure to implement fully the Royal Commission recommendations, a failure which they described as ‘a massive lost opportunity to resolve critical issues which led to the unnecessary incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’ (Cunneen & McDonald 1996, p. 7, original emphasis). Cunneen and McDonald (1996, p. 7) also noted that the growth in punitive law and order policies had tended to undermine the impact of the reforms initiated in response to the Royal Commission, but contended that there was still enormous potential to significantly reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody ‘through implementation of the [Commission’s] recommendations’.

The 35 ARRESTING INCARCERATION phrase could have been taken to mean ‘when all other sanctions have failed’ or, alternatively, ‘when the offence is too serious to be dealt with by any other means’. Most sentencing courts would have been happy with either of these formulations. But then, most would have argued that there was no need to enshrine in legislation what was already current practice as a manifestation of the common law parsimony rule. When it came time to enact legislation requiring prison to be used as a sanction of last resort, states and territories were no more willing than the Commission to explicate the phrase ‘last resort’.

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