The Pathways to Justice report published by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) states that although Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults make up around 2% of the national population, they constitute 27% of the national prison population. In 2016, around 20 in every 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were incarcerated. Over-representation is both a persistent and growing problem—Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates increased 41% between 2006 and 2016, and the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous imprisonment rates over that decade widened.
While the statistics concerning the disproportionate incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are alarming, it is important to bear in mind that the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people never commit a criminal offence.
Over the 26 years since the the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCADIC), multiple resources have been dedicated to remedying the factors identified by the RCIADIC and to reducing the disproportionate incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, in 2016, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 12.5 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous people, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were 21.2 times more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous women.
“Indigenous incarceration and the conditions leading to offending are complex but the solutions are not insurmountable. Addressing the challenge requires leadership, trust, partnering, genuine good will and a commitment to investment as sustainable change takes time. Those most impacted must be at the table and their inputs respected.
The Pathways To Justice – Inquiry Into The Incarceration Rate Of Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ALRC Report 133) provides the most recent and comprehensive systemic review since the RCADIC and the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children in the Northern Territory. Justice Reinvestment, addressing social determinants and other preventive measures, including systemic discrimination and racism, will make us a more just and equitable society – this is what the people want”.
Professor Tom Calma AO
According to the report by the ALRC, the Pathways to Justice Inquiry has one principal but constrained purpose. It is to inquire into the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison and develop recommendations for reform of laws and legal frameworks to reduce their disproportionate incarceration. The Report contains 35 recommendations designed to reduce the disproportionate rate of incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and improve community safety.
You can download a PDF version of the Pathways to Justice – Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ALRC 133 Summary) here.
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