Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment

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Inga Ting continues her special report. This shift towards the use of crime and punishment as a tool of social control -- known as "governing through crime" -- has led to the rise of a "risk agenda" that concentrates on the risk of crime occurring, not just actual crime.

Exposing the limitations of punishment

In this society of heightened fear and increased surveillance, punishment is increasingly targeted at those on the periphery. And no group lies more at the periphery than indigenous Australians. Already a subscriber? Log in to keep reading. The Crikey comment section is members-only content. Please login or sign up for a FREE trial to engage in the commentary. Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you. Talking Points. Email address or username.

It is also a year to envision what kind of country we want Canada to become, and how our justice system will reflect this vision. Many other countries have emulated our Charter and Canadian judicial officials are often chosen to serve on international courts and tribunals.

Course content

The system has become inefficient and at times crippled by delays. Judges have less discretion than ever to ensure the punishment fits the crime for the individual before them.

Victims often feel isolated, re-victimized, and voiceless. Sexual assault reporting rates are unacceptably low, showing a lack of faith in the system. Indigenous peoples are seriously overrepresented in our prisons, particularly females. Police stations and jails often serve as inappropriate substitutes to treatment and rehabilitation for those suffering from mental illness and addiction.

(ebook) Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment - - Dymocks

Delays within the justice system are harmful to all involved - victims, communities, and the accused. Due to the time it takes to get to trial, there are currently more people in provincial jails awaiting trial or sentencing than actually serving sentences. Victims and their families often have to wait years to see justice done, and since the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Jordan, some have seen charges against the accused dismissed before trial, due to constitutionally unacceptable delays.


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Delays and inefficiencies make it harder for the criminal justice system to focus on catching, convicting and punishing serious offenders. There are many reasons for the current situation, and no one solution. These include offences like failing to appear in court or breaching probation and bail conditions, often for actions that are not in themselves crimes such as a no-alcohol condition.

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Cases like these use up a tremendous amount of time and resources but do not always provide greater protection to the public. It has also been suggested that a culture of complacency exists in our courts that must be reversed.


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The system has grown accustomed to and comfortable with delay. For an increasing number of offences, judges are no longer able to impose sentences they deem to be fair and reasonable for the particular offender before them, in all of the circumstances of the case, and must instead impose mandatory minimum penalties.

For many offenders, this is not a problem. Their actions are deserving of serious punishment. Indeed, some suggest mandatory minimum penalties provide certainty in sentencing and help to ensure people are treated equally. In practice, though, they often make it hard to ensure the punishment fits the crime. Many question whether mandatory minimums make Canadians safer. Studies in the United States and elsewhere show they do not deter crime.

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