Indigenous People and the Criminal Justice System

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A senate report regarding Indigenous Australians, Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System has found that Indigenous Australians have a far higher rate of contact with the criminal justice system. Indigenous adults are 14 times more likely to be imprisoned than a non-indigenous person. In 2007, Indigenous juveniles accounted for 59% of the total juvenile detention population; this is an issue that begins to occur even before adulthood. It was found that violent crimes were more common in the Indigenous community; with Indigenous people 12.5 times more likely to be hospitalised for violent assault and spousal assault rates of hospitalisation being 35 times higher. Suggested reasons for this are the normalisation of violence at an early age, which is supported by the high rates of juvenile detention, social inequality, alcohol abuse, mental health issues and different cultural opinions and education regarding violence. However, the issue of over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system is not unique to Australia. An exploratory report by the Policy, Strategy and Research Group of the Department of Corrections describes the disproportionate representation of Maori people in the criminal justice system at ‘an alarming degree’. Although comprising only 12.5% of the general population, Maori people represent 42 % of all criminal apprehensions and 50% of all persons in prison. It has also been noted that the overrepresentation in offender statistics is mirrored by that of victims of crime statistic; this is due to the crime typically occurring within families and immediate neighbourhoods. Reasoning for the overrepresentation has been examined in detail; but is found to be due to criminal justice system bias and amplification based upon ethnicity and early life environmental influences, such as family structure, individual characteristics, education and alcohol abuse. An interesting comparison to Australia and New Zealand is that of the...
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