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Reintegration of Indigenous prisoners: new study released

Media Release

28 August 2008

Funded through the Corrective Services Administrators' Council, new research released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows that Indigenous offenders are readmitted to prison sooner and more frequently than non-Indigenous offenders and that Indigenous offenders tend to be readmitted to prison for the same kinds of violent offences each time, usually assault.

"It is well known that Indigenous Australians are incarcerated at a far greater rate than non-Indigenous Australians, with Indigenous Australians comprising nearly half of prisoners whose most serious offence or charge was an act intended to cause injury", said Dr Judy Putt, General Manager Research at the AIC. "The study showed that Indigenous prisoners were more likely to have been convicted of violent offences previously and to return to prison for violent offences".

According to the report, Reintegration of Indigenous prisoners, readmission to custody is one measure of how well attempts at reintegration into the community have succeeded or otherwise. On this measure, the findings suggest that efforts at reintegrating Indigenous offenders often fail to prevent further violent offending and to keep the offenders in the community and away from prison.

The study is based on data from all Australian jurisdictions and covers nearly 9000 males incarcerated for violent offences and released from prison over a two-year period. The quantitative data is complemented by interviews with prisoners and ex-prisoners and corrections staff in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

The study found widespread recognition of the need to tailor programs and initiatives to Indigenous prisoners and the need to focus on the factors that underpin violent crime. Efforts to respond to the needs of Indigenous prisoners across Australian and New Zealand jurisdictions include services involving Indigenous elders, liaison officers, official visitors and chaplains. A range of innovative initiatives are operating and include Indigenous-specific transition and rehabilitation teams, a minimum security institution and a live-in program, as well as family violence and sex offending programs.

"Most interviewed Indigenous prisoners and ex-prisoners found violent offending and substance abuse programs that they had participated in while in prison were useful. However, based on stakeholder comments it was concluded that the delivery of programs and services could be improved, particularly post-release," Dr Putt said. "Half of the Indigenous prisoners in the data sample were released at the expiry of their sentence which makes on-going support and supervision a challenge. Key areas that emerged from the consultations included the need to involve families and communities in throughcare, attracting more resources in remote areas and for programs in prison and in the community to be more culturally specific without negatively affecting program integrity."

Media contact: Lani Gerrish Tel: 02.6260 9273; 0403 746 009;