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Does Circle Sentencing Reduce Aboriginal Offending?

Fitzgerald, Jacqueline
June 4, 2015

Source: (2008) Sydney NSW: New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

This paper examines whether Aboriginal offenders who participate in circle sentencing show a reduction in the frequency of their offending, take longer to reoffend, and/or reduce the seriousness of their offending. Taken as a whole, the evidence presented suggests that circle sentencing has no effect on the frequency, timing or seriousness of offending. The results suggest that such direct involvement is not enough, by itself, to produce a reduction in reoffending. It is recommended that the combining of circle sentencing with other programs that have been shown to alter the risk factors for further offending be considered. Circle sentencing is an alternative sentencing process for adult Aboriginal offenders in New South Wales (NSW). It takes the sentencing process out of the traditional court setting and allows the involvement of the offender’s community. In a circle sentence, the offender, magistrate, community elders and, sometimes, the victim and support people for the offender and/or victim sit in a circle to discuss the circumstances and impact of the offense and determine a sentence tailored to the offender. The circle sentencing process in NSW was adapted from a program that originated in Canada in the 1990s. The aim of this study was to determine whether Aboriginal offenders who participated in circle sentencing in NSW (1) showed a reduction in the frequency of their offending, (2) took longer to reoffend, and/or (3) reduced the seriousness of their offending, relative to Aboriginal defendants who proceeded through a conventional court process.(abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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