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Contact with the New South Wales Court and Prison Systems: The Influence of Age, Indigenous Status and Gender

NCJ Number
Don Weatherburn; Bronwyn Lind; Jiuzhao Hua
Date Published
August 2003
11 pages
After describing the contents of a New South Wales (Australia) database that makes it possible to link successive court records belonging to the same individual, this report explains how the database was constructed and then presents some initial findings concerning the level of contact between citizens and the court according to gender and Indigenous status.
Using SAS statistical software, the reoffending database has been designed with a relational structure; i.e., it is set up as a series of tables, each with identifiers to link to other tables. There are separate tables for "master" personal data, alternative personal data, court-appearance data, offense data, and sentencing data. Although the database cannot be used to determine the true rate of reoffending of any group of offenders, in many circumstances the analyst is less interested in the true rate of reoffending than in differences in reoffending rates between and among groups or within a single group over time. The current analysis of the database found that 6.5 percent of the New South Wales population (1 in 15 people over the age of 10) appeared in court charged with a criminal offense in the 5 years between 1997 and 2001. The most common offenses were theft, violence, and serious traffic offenses. Males were charged with a criminal offense approximately 4.5 times more often than females. Contact with the court system was far more common among younger age groups (male or female) than among older age groups. Indigenous individuals' contact with the court was 4.4 times higher than for the population as a whole, with more than 25 percent of New South Wales' Indigenous population appearing in court between 1997 and 2001. Just over 40 percent of Indigenous males and approximately 14 percent of Indigenous women aged 20-24 appeared in court in 2001 charged with a criminal offense. Between 1997 and 2001, nearly 7 percent of the Indigenous population received a prison sentence, and their rate of imprisonment in 2001 was 16 times higher than that for the population as a whole. The imprisonment rate was even higher for young Indigenous males. 6 tables, 4 figures, 3 notes, and appended discussion of "cleaning" the data