there are many causes of over-representation of Koori people in Victoria’s prisons. The findings of this report show that it is influenced by Koori people being more likely to be sent to prison. This difference may be influenced by Koori people being more likely to have been in both the youth justice system and the child welfare system. Both of these may be partly explained by the effects of colonisation and the economic and social impacts that followed.
The 2011 Australian census showed that Koori people made up less than 1% of the Victorian population but more than 7% of the Victorian prison population. The rate of imprisonment for Koori people was 13 times higher than for non-Koori people.
Recent Australian research has found that Indigenous people are given different sentences because they are more involved in offending, not because of any specific racial discrimination among magistrates and judges. However, racial discrimination contributes to the high levels of disadvantage that influence Indigenous people’s involvement in crime in the first place.The main aim of the report is to compare sentencing outcomes for Koori and non-Koori offenders who have been sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to
- partially suspended sentences,
- intensive correction orders and
- community-based orders.
- What is the profile of Koori and non-Koori offenders sentenced to various sentencing orders, including terms of imprisonment, partially suspended sentences, intensive correction orders and community-based orders?
- How do average terms of imprisonment compare for Koori and non-Koori prisoners? What proportion of offenders sentenced to a term of imprisonment is Koori? If this proportion is disproportionate, what is the effect on sentencing outcome of Indigenous status, current offending and prior offending?
- Do Koori and non-Koori offenders vary on key social, personal and economic measures?
For both Koori and non- Koori offenders, their most common crimes were offences of causing injury. Koori offenders were more likely to be sentenced for this (33%) than non-Koori offenders (24%). Non-Koori offenders were more likely to be sentenced for a traffic offence (16% versus 9% for Koori offenders) or a drug offence (8% versus 4% for Koori offenders).
25% of non-Koori offenders had not been sentenced before, compared with 16% of Koori offenders. Koori offenders were also more likely to have been sentenced multiple times.
Koori prisoners are more likely to have problems with drug and alcohol use, to have poor education and employment histories, to have been held in youth detention or in adult prisons and to have breached previous orders.
Koori offenders were more likely to be sentenced to imprisonment: 37% of Koori offenders versus 29% of non-Koori offenders. When other factors such as offence type and prior sentencing are examined at the same time, Koori offenders are still significantly more likely to be imprisoned.
Koori offenders were more likely to be sentenced to a short term of imprisonment (less than 3 months), while non-Koori offenders were more likely to be sentenced to a longer term of imprisonment. When other factors such as offence type and prior sentencing are examined at the same time, there is no difference in sentence length.The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012 Prisoners in Australia document [PDF] notes that
The age standardised imprisonment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners at 30 June 2012 was 1,914 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners per 100,000 adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The equivalent rate for non-Indigenous prisoners was 129 non-Indigenous prisoners per 100,000 adult non-Indigenous population.
The rate of imprisonment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners was15 times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners at 30 June 2012, an increase in the ratio compared to 2011 (14 times higher). The highest ratio of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to non-Indigenous imprisonment rates in Australia was in Western Australia (20 times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners). Tasmania had the lowest ratio (four times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners).