Report on Circle Sentencing in Australia Finds No Effect on Recidivism

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We stumbled onto this report from Killfile’s blog . While essentially lacking in positivity of findings, Killfile describes circle sentencing as:

Circle sentencing is the NSW approach to what is generally called ‘indigenous courts’ which operates in most (except Tasmania) Australian jurisdictions. The idea is to bring a level of cultural awareness and significance to the traditional criminal justice system, and generally involves using Aboriginal elders as advisors in the sentencing of Indigenous offenders. These courts are often held in community areas without all of the formal trappings of the traditional courts, and are open to community members. It’s important to note that it isn’t a ‘soft option’ or, strictly speaking, a diversion, but rather an example of traditional western justice assuming a more culturally appropriate face. The sentencing decision is still made by a judge or a magistrate, however ideally they will also have access to more culturally appropriate sentences.

Get the report by following the link below.

Circle sentencing is an alternative method of sentencing Aboriginal offenders which involves the offender’s community in the sentencing process. This bulletin considers whether people who participate in circle sentencing (1) show a reduction in the frequency of their offending, (2) take

longer to reoffend and/or (3) reduce the seriousness of their offending. The results suggest that

circle sentencing has no effect on any of these outcomes. Circle sentencing participants offended

less in the 15 months following their circle. However, the same was also true of Aboriginal people

sentenced in a traditional court setting (the control group). After a range of offender and offence

characteristics were controlled for, we found no difference between the circle sentencing group and

the control group in time to reoffend. Finally, there was no difference between the circle sentencing

group and the control group in the percentage of offenders whose next offence was less serious

than the reference offence.

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