Mandatory Sentencing Laws: a mere alternative to human rights
Global Science & Technology Forum
Gabriel A. Moens
School of Arts and Humanities
Western Australia's judiciary has a task it cannot do: hand down just sentences to young Aboriginal offenders. Denied discretion, the judiciary is hamstrung, unable to mitigate sentences for repeated nonviolent burglary offences. Mandatory sentencing laws for 'welfare' offences are here to stay, despite their proven futility and bearing on filling Western Australian prisons with a disproportionate number of young Aboriginal people. This paper argues that mandatory sentencing laws, an exaggerated response to 'welfare' crimes, move law into the wrong. Minimised is a precursor to Aboriginal offending: serious familial dysfunction, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and neglect. Australia's human rights obligations have failed to mobilise changes to direct legal reforms and relieve social disadvantages for Aboriginal people. Redirecting resources to social and public health community-based programs under local leaders' guidance will go some way to relieving the load on courts and prisons.