ALRC Completes Inquiry Into Incarceration Rates of Indigenous Australians

Thursday 11 January 2018 @ 2.13 p.m. | Crime | Legal Research

In a previous article we have reported on the establishment of an inquiry into indigenous incarceration by the Australian Law Reform Commission (the ALRC) at the request of the Australian Government; see our article, Indigenous Incarceration: A New Generation but the Same Inquiry. In a joint Media Release dated Friday, 22 December 2017, the Attorney-General, Christian Porter and the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion announced that the Australian Government had received the ALRC's final report on the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The report is described in the Media Release as "the culmination of nearly a year’s intensive work on a complex and important issue." The report is the result of the ALRC's public consultation which was followed by the release of a discussion paper in July 2017. The Media Release indicates that the Australian Government "will now carefully consider the recommendations" and  thanks the ALRC for its report.

Terms of reference

The Government announced the ALRC inquiry in October 2016 to examine the factors leading to the disturbing over representation of Indigenous Australians in our prison system and to consider reforms to the law.

The "draft terms of reference" were released on 6 November 2016 and requested that the ALRC examine the laws, frameworks and institutions and broader contextual factors that lead to the disturbing over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our prison system.

Submissions closed on 13 January 2017 and the draft terms of reference received 47 submissions and these were incorporated into new terms of reference.

Some of  key aspects of the Terms of Reference asked the ALRC to consider:

  1. Laws and legal frameworks including legal institutions and law enforcement (police, courts, legal assistance services and prisons), that contribute to the incarceration rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and inform decisions to hold or keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in custody.
  2. Factors that decision-makers take into account when considering point 1.
  3. Laws that may contribute to the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offending and including, for example, laws that regulate the availability of alcohol, driving offences and unpaid fines.
  4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their rate of incarceration.
  5. Differences in the application of laws across states and territories.
  6. Other access to justice issues including the remoteness of communities, the availability of and access to legal    assistance and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and sign interpreters.
  7. The ALRC should also consider the gaps in available data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration and consider recommendations that might improve data collection.

The full detailed terms of reference can be found in our article: Indigenous Incarceration Inquiry: Terms of Reference Announced and Commissioner Appointed.

Release of the Final Report

According to the Media Release the final report will be tabled in the Federal Parliament in 2018 and then released publicly after the government has responded to the report.

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