Indigenous Australian Criminal Justice System

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Indigenous Australians are grossly over-represented in the criminal justice system. However, the true extent of this over-representation differs between individual areas. Despite indigenous Australians only making up two per cent of the population, they accounted for over twenty seven per cent of the total prison population in 2014 (ABS). This high rate of imprisonment is not due to indigenous people being more likely to commit crime than other Australians, but rather indigenous Australians are over-represented due to a higher rate of offending and recidivism and also largely in part due to the fact that they have a lower rate of referrals to diversionary programs. This is largely due to the discriminatory practices by the police and the judicial …show more content…
(Harris, 1972). For Lincoln and Wilson (1994), police discretionary powers highlight how systematic or institutional racism operates within the criminal justice system, which could easily be used to explain why Indigenous Australians are over-represented. It is not to say that all police officers hold racist views towards Indigenous people, but rather that Indigenous people are often at a disadvantage when it comes to exercising discretionary powers in order to divert them from the criminal justice system (Cunneen and Luke, 1995). This maybe due to the notion that on some subconscious level police feel that Indigenous offenders possess certain characteristics that put them as unsuitable candidates for diversion (Austin, 1997). Similarly, many members of the community may find the behaviour of Indigenous Australians threatening, including the police due to a lack of knowledge about cultural customs and norms (Davis, 1999). Despite the apparent presence of institutional racism within the criminal justice system, there is also more direct racism at play, with a small minority of police officers as well as portion of the community displaying racist attitudes that no doubt play apart in the decision making process when dealing with Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system. Imlah (1992) emphasises this notion, by stating it is not surprising that …show more content…
From the initial arrest due to the lack of police discretion, to the judicial processes right up to the legislation guiding these principles. The lack of appropriateness of the criminal justice system is further highlighted by the powerless status of Indigenous people. Racism is so ingrained in Australian society and without total legal reform this notion will continue to affect Indigenous Australians in there every day

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