'Tough on crime?' How information shapes public support for the Children's Court Drug Court
School of Arts and Humanities
Diversion from the formal Criminal Justice System has been evidenced to result in better outcomes for young people engaging in criminal behaviour. However, moving away from traditional punishment is often unpopular with the public who perceive it as going "soft on crime", a perception that can influence political agendas. "Attitude" data is often gauged by presenting the public with binary opinion polls or collected from an ill-informed public who are subsequently labelled as punitive. Therefore it is advised to educate the public before seeking their attitudes to criminal justice approaches. This methodology was adopted to examine attitudes towards the Children's Court Drug Court in Western Australia (CCDC). A mixed methods approach was used to gauge public opinion through surveys (n=403) or interviews (n=60) by presenting information about the existence and aims of juvenile drug courts. Provided with accurate information, people were more likely to be supportive of the CCDC as an option. The findings are discussed in context of the implications for policy and practice.