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Why are fewer Aboriginal young people in custody in NSW?

Release Date: 10:30am Thursday 13 May 2021

Link to reports summary:-

In the four years since 2015, the number of Aboriginal young people in custody in NSW fell by 25%. A new report released today by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) shows that this reduction is primarily due to a drop in offending by Aboriginal young people and a reduction in the number and proportion of Aboriginal young people receiving a custodial sentence.

Between 2015 and 2019, the average number of Aboriginal young people in custody declined from 161 per day in 2015 to 121 in 2019. Falls in the number of Aboriginal young people in remand and in sentenced custody both contributed to the decline (down 21% and 29% respectively). 

Two key factors contributed to the downward trend. The first was a reduction in the number of Aboriginal young people charged by police and appearing in court. Between 2015 and 2019, the number of Aboriginal young people proceeded against to court by police declined from 3,685 in 2015 to 3,324 in 2019. Large reductions were seen in break and enter, property damage and traffic offences.  

The second factor was a decline in Aboriginal young people sentenced to a custodial order (down from 404 in 2015 to 221 in 2019). This was due in part to the reduced volume of Aboriginal young people in court (down from 2,896 convictions in 2015 to 2,198 in 2019). In addition, however, the proportion of convicted Aboriginal young people receiving a custodial sentence fell from 14% to 10%. 

Today BOCSAR also released new statistics showing the number of adults and young people in custody up to March 2021. These figures confirm that adult and youth custodial populations remain low following pandemic-related changes occurring from March 2020.

Commenting on the research findings, Executive Director of BOCSAR, Jackie Fitzgerald welcomed the reduction in Aboriginal children in detention noting that positive trends for Aboriginal people are all too rare in criminal justice.  “The result allows for cautious optimism that Aboriginal over-representation in custody can be shifted.  Unfortunately, despite improvements, we still have a long way to go. Aboriginal young people currently make up 40% of young people in detention, so the issue remains significant.”

Further enquiries: Jackie Fitzgerald, Executive Director, BOCSAR  0423 139 687
Email: bcsr@justice.nsw.gov.au
Copies of the report:
www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au