Date of Award

12-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Criminal Justice

School

School of Law and Justice

Faculty

Faculty of Business and Law

First Advisor

Dr Ann-Claire Larsen

Abstract

The Wongi

people are Indigenous to the Goldfields region and account for just 10 per cent of the population; yet they make up 90 per cent of the prisoners. With Indigenous incarceration rates above 8,000 per 100,000 adult male population in Western Australia, imprisonment is clearly a common experience for Indigenous men and women that profoundly affect the lives of their families. Gaols are meant to be used as a sentence of last resort when the severity of the offence requires severe punishment and prevention of further offences requires close confinement. For this research, Wongi leaders were interviewed about their perceptions of the incarceration system. They indicated that prison is being applied too frequently for minor offences, does little to prevent further offences and has a profound negative socio-economic impact on inmates’ partners and children. The negative impact was also exacerbated when Wongi prisoners are transferred 600 kilometres out of their country to Perth because the local prison is overcrowded. The Wongi leaders who were interviewed believe that the criminal justice system lacks the moral authority to deal with their people fairly and punishes inmates’ families more so than the offender. According to the Wongi leaders, the incarceration system could be improved by using the cultural practice of shaming and targeting training more effectively so that prisoner skill sets were identified and enhanced to improve employment chances and a reduction in recidivism. By using these strategies, the criminal justice system would increase the deterrent effect of incarceration, decrease the rate of recidivism, and improve the Wongi perception of the system.

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