The over-representation of disadvantaged groups within
This chapter examines the over-representation of
disadvantaged groups within Australian prisons including Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples and individuals experiencing mental ill-health,
cognitive disability and hearing loss. Other issues were also identified such
as an increase of juvenile representation in the justice system, the
correlation between the completion of high school and offending behaviour, as
well as the link between incarceration and language impairment.
Young people in the justice system
In Australia, the upper age limit for treatment as a young
person in the justice system is 17 in all states and territories except
Queensland, where the limit is 16. However, some young people aged 18
and older are involved in the youth justice system—reasons for this include the
offence being committed when the young person was aged 17 or younger, the
continuation of supervision once they turn 18, or their vulnerability or
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) administers
the Juvenile Justice National Minimum Data Set (JJ NMDS). Both Western
Australia and the Northern Territory have not contributed to the NMDS since
2007–08. The AIHW estimates national totals based on previous data supplied
from those jurisdictions.
AIHW data indicated that on an average day in 2011–12,
there were almost 7,000 young people aged 10 and older under youth justice
supervision. A total of 13,830 young people were supervised at some time during
the year. Among those aged 10–17, this equates to a rate of 26 young people
per 10,000 under supervision on an average day and 52 per 10,000 during the
Most young people under supervision are male and
the majority are aged 14–17. Most young people are supervised in the community
with 1,000 (14 per cent) in detention on an average day in 2011–12.
Most young people in supervision were from cities (49 per
cent) and regional areas (40 per cent). Young people aged 10–17 from remote
areas were almost four times as likely to be under supervision on an average
day as those from major cities (63 per 10,000 compared with 17 per 10,000),
while those from very remote areas were six times as likely (103 compared
with 17 per 10,000). The AIHW added that, based on postcode of last address, almost
2 in 5 young people under supervision on an average day were from the areas of the
lowest socioeconomic status. Young people aged 10–17 from the areas of lowest
socioeconomic status were five times as likely to be under supervision as those
from the areas of highest socioeconomic status (42 per 10,000 compared with 9
The AIHW commented that nationally, the numbers and rates of young
people under justice supervision have remained relatively stable over the four
years from 2008–09 to 2011–12.
The Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia submitted
that the daily rate of young people in detention in Western Australia between
2007 and 2011 increased by 33 per cent.
The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA also provided
information on youth detention, including trends, in Western Australia. While
the number of proceedings taken against young people by police in Western
Australia decreased (by 20 per cent in 2010–11), the average daily population in
juvenile detention grew by 2.1 per cent. Over the five years from 2005, there
was a 40 per cent increase. The Commissioner also noted that Western Australia
has the second highest rate of juvenile detention in Australia, 0.69 young
people per 1,000 in detention, second only to the Northern Territory at 1.55
The cost of detaining juveniles is high. The cost of
housing a young person in a correction facility is significantly higher than
the costs of accommodating adult prisoners. In NSW, just under half of the Department
of Juvenile Justice budget is spent on keeping juvenile offenders in custody.
Indigenous young people
Indigenous young people are over-represented in the
justice system. Although less than 5 per cent of young people are Indigenous, on
an average day in 2011–12, 39 per cent of those under supervision were
Indigenous. In detention, this proportion was higher, where almost half (48 per
cent) are Indigenous. Indigenous young people under supervision were
younger, on average, than non-Indigenous young people. About 1 in 4 Indigenous
young people under supervision on an average day were aged 10–14, compared with
1 in 8 non-Indigenous young people.
Nationally, there were 236 Indigenous young people per 10,000 aged 10–17
under justice supervision on an average day in 2011–12, compared with just 15
non-Indigenous young people per 10,000. Thus, Indigenous young people aged
10–17 were almost 16 times as likely to be under supervision as
non-Indigenous young people.
This over-representation was most notable in detention where Indigenous
young people aged 10–17 were 15 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people
to be under community based supervision and almost 25 times as likely to be in
While the Northern Territory and Western Australia have not provided data for
the NMDS which covers the whole justice system, data is provided for
detentions. In the Northern Territory, there were 39 Indigenous young people aged
10 to 17 in detention on an average night in the June quarter 2011–12.
This was a rate of 3.29 per 1,000 Indigenous young people. In Western
Australia, the rate was 8.90 per 1,000 Indigenous young people.
The trend in Indigenous young people under justice supervision is
different to the national trend: between 2008–09 and 2011–12, there was an
increase in the rate of Indigenous young people aged 10–17 under supervision on
an average day from 226 to 236 per 10,000 population.
The level of Indigenous over-representation increased in unsentenced detention
over the period from 24 to 31 times the likelihood of non-Indigenous young
Drivers of juvenile incarceration
There are multiple reasons for the increased juvenile
representation in prisons. These include the disproportionate over-representation
of Aboriginal young people held in detention. The AHIW reported that data
collections show that young people from areas of low socioeconomic status or
remote areas and young people who are homeless or in the child protection are
also over-represented in the youth justice supervision system. Other factors include the
increasing number of sentenced young people being held on remand; the limited
implementation of bail and supervision orders; and the geographic concentration
of young offenders in disadvantaged areas.
Legal Aid NSW commented that young people are often
released on bail subject to onerous conditions such as curfews, requirements to
be in the company of a parent, requirements to follow the directions of a
parent, and place restrictions. Because of the stringency of such conditions,
there is an increased likelihood that the conditions will be breached. Legal
Aid NSW also commented that police appear to be giving more attention to bail
compliance checking. As a result, the number of bail breach matters coming
before the Children's Court has increased dramatically.
This trend has several adverse consequences: a young person breaching
bail will end up on remand; and if the young person comes into contact with the
adult criminal justice system at a later stage having breached bail multiple
times as a juvenile, that person is treated by the courts as a person with a
lengthy criminal history which, among other things, decreases the chances of
that person being granted bail in the future.
In addition, a disproportionately larger number of
juveniles are currently being held on remand in comparison to the rest of the
prison population, for example, 53 per cent of the 320 juveniles and young
people in custody in NSW held on remand. One of the reasons for remand being
that 'a substantial number are refused bail because they are homeless'. The North Australian
Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) observed that on 31 January 2013, 24 of
65 juvenile detainees in the Northern Territory were on remand. Many young people are
being held on remand due to their difficulty in upholding strict bail
conditions and yet over 80 per cent of young people in remand in Western
Australia will not receive a custodial sentence once they appear in court.
The offending behaviour of young people is linked
to their circumstances: 'there is strong evidence that children who suffer
abuse or neglect are more likely to engage in criminal activity than those who
The AIHW noted that almost 15 per cent of young people under juvenile
justice supervision received homelessness support in the year before their most
recent supervision. There is also an overlap between youth justice and child
protection systems. Almost 10 per cent of those who have had some supervision
have also had at least one substantiated child protection notification.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are
the most over-represented in Australia's justice systems. The Report on
Government Services Indigenous Compendium provided the following information
- the daily average number of Indigenous prisoners
was 7757, 26.6 per cent of prisoners nationally;
- the national (crude) imprisonment rate per 100,000
Indigenous adults was 2246.3 compared with a corresponding rate of 123.7 for
- the national age standardised imprisonment rate per
100,000 Indigenous adults was 1749.7 compared with a corresponding rate of
129.1 for non-Indigenous prisoners.
It was noted that there has been an increase in the
incarceration of Indigenous prisoners. In 1991, the number of adult Indigenous
prisoners was 2,140 and 14 per of all adult prisoners identified as Indigenous.
Currently, Indigenous people comprise only 2.5 per cent of Australia's
population they also incorporate over a quarter of the prison population. NATSILS also
commented that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are
incarcerated at a rate 14 times higher than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples. This rate has increased between 2000 and 2010 by almost
59 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and 35 per
cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men.
The National Justice Chief Executive Officers (NJCEOs) also
commented on the trend in Indigenous incarceration and stated that if the rate
of Indigenous imprisonment is maintained at current levels, in 2021 the number
of Indigenous people in prison on an average day will increase to 10,313.
However, if the rate continues to trend upwards as it has over the last decade,
in 2021, the number of Indigenous people in prison on an average day will reach
13,558. The NJCEOs stated that this would represent 'a virtual doubling of the
number of Indigenous adults in prison over a period of 12 years'.
The South Australian Justice Reinvestment Working
Group submitted it is the rate of reoffending of Indigenous people, as well as
their over-representation in the justice system, which is of concern. In 2011,
70 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners convicted of a
violent offence had a previous conviction and 81 per cent who were convicted of
non-violent offences had a previous conviction.
Sisters Inside pointed to the increasing incarceration
rate of Indigenous women and stated that not only are Indigenous women
the most over-represented population in prison, they also have the fastest
growing rate of imprisonment. Nationally, the increase in incarceration rates
between 2000 and 2010 was greater for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
women than any other cultural group. Over the last decade there was a 58.6 per
cent increase in incarceration for Indigenous women compared with a 22.4 per
cent increase for non-Indigenous women. The increase in incarceration for
Indigenous men was 35.2 per cent. Indigenous women are also more likely to
return to prison than non-Indigenous women.
Indigenous women are also more likely to be in prison on remand and less likely
to be granted conditional release or post prison community-based release.
Sisters Inside pointed to the significant level of trauma and abuse
suffered by Indigenous women beginning in childhood. Many face high levels of
ongoing family violence which have been connected to their offences and
convictions with 80 per cent of women prisoners in one NSW study stating that
they believed their offending was a direct consequence of their victimisation.
The effects of repeated victimisation are well documented and can lead to low
self-esteem, anxiety, depression, other mental health issues and substance
abuse. Sisters Inside concluded:
These factors are all correlated with increased risk of
offending and in the case of substance abuse can constitute an offence in
itself. Therefore many Indigenous women and girls are not only stuck in cycles
of abuse as victims, but also get stuck in cycles of offending in an effort to
cope with their difficult life situations.
Drivers of high
Indigenous incarceration rates
It was noted that violent offending is the primary
driver of Indigenous incarceration and that offences against justice procedures
have a considerable impact. Violent offences account for 48 per cent of all
prison sentences and offences against justice procedures 17 per cent.
Other drivers behind the over-representation of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia's prisons are linked to
disadvantage: high levels of poverty, poor education outcomes and high rates of
unemployment, lack of housing and homelessness, family dysfunction and loss of
connection to community and culture.
The lack of access to adequate services such as housing, health and schooling
also has a direct impact on the growing rates of imprisonment of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander people.
The impact of drug and alcohol abuse on incarceration rates is high, with
suggestions that 'alcohol is a factor in up to 90 per cent of all Indigenous
contact with the criminal justice system'.
The changes to judicial processes have also been
linked to increases in Indigenous incarceration. For example, submitters
pointed to the impact of mandatory sentencing laws. NATSILS submitted that:
By removing discretion, mandatory sentencing
has resulted in inappropriate sentences of imprisonment, disproportionately
high imprisonment rates in those jurisdictions in which it exists, and has
contributed to the overwhelming overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander peoples in the prison population of those jurisdictions.
Furthermore, strict bail and monitoring conditions are
becoming increasingly difficult to follow for some individuals with unstable
living arrangements or a lack of financial means. These pose further issues for
Indigenous populations 'especially in cases where an individual does not speak
English or seeks to reside in a remote or regional community'. The NSW Reconciliation
Council also commented that 'police continue to use arrest for minor offences,
meaning that Indigenous people are far more likely than non-Indigenous people to
be arrested, charged, taken to court and given bail conditions'.
A further matter raised in evidence was 'normalisation' of
imprisonment. As a consequence, imprisonment loses much of its
deterrent effect and becomes a 'rite of passage' for disenchanted young people.
Mr Craig Comrie, Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia, stated:
Unfortunately, I have heard numerous stories—in Western
Australia particularly, given our distance and the location of our juvenile
facility in Perth—of young people in regional areas offending merely so they
can be with their friends and peers, because they know that they are in the
prison here. I think as well there is an element of young people seeing it as a
right of passage. I would hazard to say that I do not think it is the main
contributor that puts young people into the detention system, but it is
something that we need to look at, and at providing young people with better
opportunities and better support in their own communities so that it does not
sound like a good thing to head down to Perth to go to Banksia Hill.
People suffering from mental ill-health
A large number of individuals suffering from mental
ill-health are contained in Australia's justice system. The AIHW 2010 National
Prisoner Health Census found that 31 per cent of people coming into
prison reported having ever been told that they had a mental health disorder. Female
prison entrants were more likely to have a history of mental health disorder
than males. The proportion of prison entrants with a history of mental health
disorder was about 2.5 times higher than the general population.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation submitted that if personality
disorder and substance use disorder is included as a mental health problem the
figure goes up to about 90 per cent for women and 75 per cent for men.
This data is supported by the Human Rights Law
Centre which stated that:
...around one in every five prisoners in
Australia suffers from serious mental illness. There is both a causal and
consequential link between imprisonment and mental illness; people with mental
illness are more likely to be incarcerated, particularly having regard to the
lack of support provided by the poorly resourced community mental health
sector, and people in prison are more likely to develop mental health problems,
with prisons not being conducive to good mental health.
The reasons behind the high rates of incarceration for
individuals suffering from a mental illness include their incidence of
homelessness and economic difficulties, the deinstitutionalisation and
isolation of those suffering from mental illness, and increased alcohol and
substance abuse among the general population as well as among the mentally ill.
The National Centre for Indigenous Studies and
Indigenous Offender Health Capacity Building Group explained that due to a lack
of appropriate mental health services 'people with mental illness are often incarcerated
rather than treated'.
Once an individual suffering from a mental illness is imprisoned, the situation
is often exacerbated as a result of inadequate prison health care. These
individuals are managed in other ways, including through segregation, and such
methods can have a further detrimental effect on mental health and can cause
An individual with a mental illness also has a
higher chance of being incarcerated if that person also abuses drugs or alcohol
as it 'drastically increases a person's risk of negative interactions and
outcomes, in particular as it relates to involvement in the criminal justice or
forensic mental health system'.
The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples also commented on the
association between mental health conditions and imprisonment rates for Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A recent study of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people in Queensland prisons found that 72.8 per cent of men
and 86.1 per cent of women had at least one mental health disorder, compared to
a prevalence rate in the general community estimated at 20 per cent. The study
concluded that the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
people in prison, the high prevalence of mental disorder, and the frequent
transitioning to and from prison, would have flow-of effects in Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities.
Alcohol and substance abuse
Another disadvantaged group that is
over-represented in the penal system is those individuals with a history of
alcohol and substance abuse. The South Australian Justice Reinvestment Working
Group cited the AIHW's 2010 report on prisoner health which stated that:
- 65 per cent of Australia's prisoners had used
illicit drugs in the 12 months prior to incarceration (compared with 15 per
cent of the general population using illicit drugs in the previous 12 months);
- 50 per cent reported drinking alcohol at levels
that put them at risk; and
- 73 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander prisoners reported alcohol issues.
A high number of prison inmates blame intoxication
for their imprisonment. A review of inmates in NSW and the ACT found that 61
per cent of inmates in NSW and 72 per cent of inmates in the ACT stated that
their current imprisonment was due to being intoxicated while offending,
showing the direct link between alcohol and drug use and involvement in the
Some offences have a high correlation with drug and
alcohol use such as homicide, with 47 per cent of 1,565 homicides over six
years being categorised as alcohol related, with both the victim and the
offender having consumed alcohol prior to the offence. Violent offences are in
general linked to drugs and alcohol, with drunkenness fueling aggression and
hostility. Potent stimulants, for example methamphetamines, can cause severe
hostility including aggression, breaking property, or threatening and
assaulting individuals with a weapon.
Furthermore, drug and alcohol dependency can push
an individual with limited income to commit property crime in order to sustain
their habit. Conversely, an individual may resort to drug dealing to finance
their addiction. This can create a higher chance of further offending as
'[a]mong higher level dealers violence is associated with the drug trade'.
For female offenders, there is a stronger
association between incarceration and drug and alcohol dependency than for male
offenders. The Women in Prison Advocacy Network submitted that the reason for
this was that 'women are more inclined to abuse substances as a form of
self-medication or coping mechanism for the psychological and emotional
distress correlated with their historical trauma'. The historical trauma
itself may have been the result of the alcohol and drug abuse of a partner, with
the partner becoming more aggressive and physically violent.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum
Drug and alcohol abuse can have intergenerational
effects, especially for individuals that have been exposed to alcohol in the
womb. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are conditions that are unique to
an individual who has been exposed to alcohol during pregnancy and is
...a spectrum of conditions which are unique to
an individual and which may be physical and/or neurobehavioural...fetal alcohol
exposure is often noticed as behaviours which result in a disparity between
individual abilities and environmental expectations which increase over time.
Frequently undetected, FASD is referred to as the "invisible
disability". This may be attributed to the current lack of a comprehensive
understanding of FASD among many health professionals and service providers.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of
Psychiatrists submitted that the resulting brain damage from prenatal exposure
to alcohol can increase involvement in criminal activity due to the following
characteristics of FASD:
- a lack of impulse control;
- trouble identifying future consequences of current
- difficulty planning and connecting cause and effect;
- difficulty empathising with others and taking
responsibility for actions;
- difficulty delaying gratification or making good
- a tendency toward explosive episodes; and
- vulnerability to social influences such as peer
There are other factors that can increase the
probability of an individual with FASD committing offending behaviours. Dr
Raewyn Mutch, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, explained:
These conditions are characterized by
significant central nervous system dysfunction leading to learning,
developmental, sensory and behavioural problems. They are primary disabilities
that then go on to develop secondary and tertiary disabilities such as
depression, school failure, low self-esteem...They can also go on to develop other
mental health disorders and substance dependency.
Dr Mutch also noted that studies from North America
have estimated that juveniles with FASD are 19 times more likely to be
incarcerated than those without FASD.
The National Organisation for Fetal Alcohol
Spectrum and Related Disorders also pointed to a North American study which
found that '60% of adolescents and adults diagnosed with FASD had been in
trouble with the law and 50% had experienced a type of confinement'. Other
indicators of higher rates of offending behaviour included '61% of individuals
having a disrupted school experience...35% experienced alcohol and other
drug problems and 49% had displayed inappropriate sexual behaviours on multiple
Individuals with an intellectual disability are
similarly overrepresented in Australia's justice system. The Royal Australian
and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists referenced a study that examined
'1,325 prisoners in Queensland and found that 9% of prisoners had an
intellectual disability...three times higher than the prevalence in the normal
Just Reinvest NSW cited a 2009 NSW survey that found that 17 per cent of young
people in prison had 'cognitive functioning scores consistent with a possible
intellectual disability, and 10 per cent met both IQ and adaptive behaviour
deficits consistent with...criteria for intellectual disability'.
National Disability Services cited a recent
Victorian Law Reform Committee report which found that 'anecdotal evidence and
the limited statistical evidence that is available strongly suggest that people
with an intellectual disability or cognitive impairment form a large and
disproportionate proportion of offenders and victims of crime'.
The explanations given for the over-representation
of individuals with intellectual disabilities are varied. For example, the
Advocacy and Support Centre submitted that there may be some behavioural issues
exhibited by people with disabilities that brings them into contact with the
prison system, such as 'poor impulse control; lack of insight into offending
behaviours; lack of self-control; lack of knowledge around social norms/rules;
and difficulties in learning and communication'.
The high rate of incarceration of individuals with
an intellectual disability could also be a result of a possible susceptibility
to 'delinquent behaviour' due to mental disabilities; vulnerabilities in court
processes as a result of incomprehension; or psychological and socio-economic
Additionally, it can be particularly difficult for a person with an
intellectual disability to communicate instructions to legal representatives,
or understand court processes, or the significance of legal issues.
Specifically, individuals with a complex cognitive
disability 'broadly defined as a mental health disorder with an intellectual
disability' have a much higher rate of early contact with the justice system
than those with a single disability or without a disability. Prisoners with an intellectual
disability have high rates of deferral of parole due to a lack of post-release
accommodation with appropriate support. In addition, prisoners with an
intellectual disability have a higher average number of prison incidents
recorded against them.
Recidivism rates of this group are also
uncharacteristically high with prisoners suffering from an intellectual
disability in NSW being 78 per cent more likely to return to prison.
Another issue for individuals suffering from an
intellectual disability is the difficulty these individuals have during
exchanges with law enforcement. The Advocacy and Support Centre submitted as an
example that 'a person with an intellectual disability [is] more likely to
admit to offences, including those offences that they may not have committed,
due to a desire to please an authority figure (police) or a desire to conceal
the fact they do not understand the questions being asked'.
Difficulties exist for law enforcement as well due
to a lack of training to identify individuals with signs of mental health
issues or a cognitive disability. NATSILS stated that it:
...often see the failure of police to deal with
the mental illness and cognitive/intellectual disabilities of a person who has
come into contact with the criminal justice system, for relatively minor
offending, without resorting to judicial proceedings and detention.
The absence of a procedural guide for law
enforcement with regards to cognitive disability indicates that these
individuals are not necessarily diverted to rehabilitative programs or other
alternatives when necessary.
Furthermore, there are occasions when an individual with a cognitive disability
has to be detained as there are no rehabilitative programs available or they
are oversubscribed or underfunded.
Young people with a
Legal Aid NSW noted that young people with a
cognitive disability or mental health issue are more likely to be placed in
care as a consequence of their problematic behaviour. Legal Aid NSW stated that
the police and the justice system are increasingly being relied upon in
lieu of adequate behaviour management, especially in relation to children with
complex needs. For example, a common bail condition imposed on children in
out-of-home care is the condition to 'obey the directions of carer'. As a
result, children are reported to the police for breaching bail by carers and are
subsequently arrested for demonstrating the type of behaviour that, if they
were living in a functioning family environment, may have been dealt with
without police intervention. In addition, both care workers, using occupational
health and safety mandates, and parents have applied for apprehended violence
orders (AVOs) against young people as a way of dealing with their behaviour.
Legal Aid NSW stated that breaches are common because young people with
cognitive and mental health impairments often lack the capacity to understand
the conditions attached to AVOs.
People suffering from hearing loss
Many submitters commented on the representation of
individuals suffering from hearing loss in the justice system. An individual with
hearing loss can have early contact with the criminal justice system due to
problematic linguistic development during childhood, which results in poor
written literacy and communication, and subsequent poor education and
employment outcomes. It was noted that within the justice system, people with
hearing loss are disadvantaged. They may face more severe penalties if they cannot
communicate effectively with police, if they cannot participate or fully
understand court proceedings or cannot understand bail conditions or a parole
order because of undetected hearing loss.
Hearing loss is particularly prevalent in
Indigenous communities with over half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
children experiencing some form of hearing loss, and 11 per cent having chronic
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer hearing loss at ten times
the rate of non-Indigenous people.
The Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland
submitted that statistical data on hearing loss was not available for those
among the general prison population, nor for the Indigenous prison population,
however 'informed estimates suggest that the incidence may be very high
Other submitters provided evidence of hearing loss
in prison populations. Juvenile Justice NSW referenced a survey conducted in
2009 that found that '18% of young people [in custody] had mild to moderate
hearing loss in one or both ears, with a further 32% having at least one ear
with a degree of hearing loss'.
NATSILS stated that an investigation among inmates in the Northern Territory
corrections facilities found that more than 90 per cent of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander inmates had significant hearing loss.
Hearing loss can have a direct link to recidivism
with an individual breaching parole or bail due to miscommunication. NATSILS
provided an example of this in its submission:
...a client, who has an undetected hearing
impairment, indicates that they understand what has transpired and that they
understand the conditions of a bail or parole order when in fact they haven't
actually been able to hear a thing. Consequently, not being aware of their bail
conditions, the client is then released only to unknowingly breach the order
and be remanded in custody.
The Senate Community Affairs References Committee report,
Hear Us: Inquiry into Hearing Health in Australia, expressed concern
regarding the links between hearing impairment and incarceration:
The committee is gravely concerned about the potential
implications of hearing impairment on Indigenous Australian's engagement with
the criminal justice system. Those most vulnerable are Indigenous people from
remote areas who do not have English as their first language, or indeed who,
due to early onset untreated hearing loss, have little means of communication
The Community Affairs Committee stated that any improvements
in Indigenous hearing health would have a subsequent positive impact on the
reduction in incarceration rates.
Other disadvantaged groups
The committee identified other disadvantaged groups
during its inquiry, including individuals with an oral-language impairment, who
experienced difficulties when interacting with the justice system.
Oral language impairment is a common factor in
young male offenders, with approximately 50 per cent having deficits in both
comprehension and spoken language. Associate Professor Pamela Snow and
Professor Martine Powell submitted that 'young people with more serious offence
histories (i.e. involving interpersonal violence) are particularly likely to
have language impairment'.
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