26 September 2023

Success rounded up for Circle Sentencing

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A new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has found that Aboriginal people appearing in Court who participate in Circle Sentencing enjoy lower rates of imprisonment and recidivism than Aboriginal people sentenced the traditional way.

In its report, Circle Sentencing, incarceration and recidivism, BOCSAR says Circle Sentencing is an alternative sentencing method for Aboriginal offenders, available in 12 NSW Local Courts.

“Under Circle Sentencing, the magistrate works with Aboriginal elders, victims and the offender’s family to determine an appropriate sentence,” the Bureau said.

“In this study we set out to examine the relationship between Circle Sentencing (CS) and likelihood of incarceration and recidivism,” it said.

“We found that net of controls and fixed effects, offenders participating in CS are 9.3 percentage points less likely to receive a prison sentence.”

“In relative terms, this equates to a reduction of 51.7 per cent.”

BOCSAR said the study also examined the probability of at least one reoffence within 12 months and the number of days between sentencing and the offender’s first reoffence.

It said that offenders participating in Circle Sentencing were 3.9 per cent less likely to reoffend within 12 months; and took 55 days longer to reoffend if and when they did.

Executive Director of BOCSAR, Jackie Fitzgerald said it was encouraging to find that Circle Sentencing had beneficial outcomes for participants given its strong support among Aboriginal communities.

“Past research has shown that Circle Sentencing reduces barriers between Aboriginal communities and the Courts and improves confidence in the sentencing process,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“This is the first study, however, to find an association between Circle Sentencing and reoffending and imprisonment,” she said.

BOCSAR’s 22-page report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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