Reflections in Criminal Justice Policy Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
REFLECTIONS: 40 YEARS ON FROM THE 1967 REFERENDUM, ABORIGINAL LEGAL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, pp, 135-146, Gillespie, N., ed., Adelaide, 2007
Posted: 28 Jan 2009
Date Written: 2007
The long list of shocking cases of Aboriginal deaths in custody exposed by the Royal Commission provided a public understanding of the processes of racism in the criminal justice system and Australian society more generally. The stories of the deaths in custody were the incontrovertible stories of institutional racism, of human tragedy and monumental inhumanity. Some cases showed profound callousness, others simple indifference. The current tragedy is that so many of the circumstances leading to deaths in custody, and identified by the RCADIC, are still routine occurrences.
At the broadest level, the political conditions of the late 1990s and the new century have not been conducive in Australia to effective reform of the criminal justice system. There is little doubt that we have moved into a more punitive period in relation to criminal justice responses, and whatever impetus there was to reform in the early 1990s has largely evaporated. We see this drift into 'law and order' responses manifested in a range of areas including increased police powers, 'zero tolerance' style laws which increase the use of arrest for minor offences, greater levels of bail refusal and longer periods of imprisonment for a range of offences. However, on the positive side there has been a renaissance in Indigenous justice institutions. These provide the potential for significant change in the criminal justice system, and an opportunity for greater recognition of the aspirations of Indigenous people.
Keywords: Criminal justice, public policy, Indigenous, deaths, Royal Commission
JEL Classification: K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation