The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has today released its report into ‘understanding the decline of Aboriginal young people in custody in NSW from 2015 to 2019.’ The report produced findings indicating a welcome downward, but far from sufficient, trend of First Nations young people held in detention due to changes within the criminal justice system. The downward trend can be explained in the report by:
• Fewer young people prosecuted by the police;
• lesser penalties imposed for crimes;
• More young people are being granted;
• Fewer bail revocations due to bail breaches, and;
• Fewer custodial sentences imposed by the Courts.
Between 2015 and 2019 there has been an overall decline in:
• The rates of remand and sentencing;
• The number of Aboriginal children proceeded against by police;
• The rate of bail revocations;
• The number of Aboriginal young people sentenced to a control order, due to fewer convictions in court;
• The percentage of Indigenous young people receiving control orders.
Progressive changes to the Bail Act, dealing with young people, in combination with a reduction in over-policing, has contributed to an overall decline over the last 5 years. There have been no changes to the juvenile crime rate, just the way in which these crimes are handled largely by police.
NSW Greens MP and First Nations spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“The answer to the appallingly high imprisonment rate of First Nations peoples lies in empowering and listening to First Nations communities, not more police and jails.
“This proves what advocates have been saying for years, it is the NSW criminal justice system that is responsible for gross incarceration rates, not the behaviour of Indigenous young people.
“First Nations elders and activists have been telling governments this for decades, it's time we listened.
“It is no revelation that less aggressive policing and fewer prosecution means less First Nations kids in detention.
“This report makes clear that with a few progressive changes to the Bail Act and less aggressive policing of First Nations communities, we can also reduce the number Aboriginal adults in jail.
“The problem here is the criminal justice system, not First Nations peoples.
“In short, better policy and less police equals less First Nations people in detention,” Mr Shoebridge said.
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