People with disability and offending in NSW: Results from the National Disability Data Asset pilot
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To describe the proportion of people with disability in New South Wales who offend, and the proportion of offenders who have a disability, separately for young and adult offenders.
Data were obtained for individuals in contact with the criminal justice system and/or specific disability support services between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2018. For those who accessed these core disability support services (the “disability cohort”), we report frequencies and percentages relating to whether individuals had offending and/or custodial records during the 10-year period. Similarly, for the young and adult offender cohorts, we report frequencies and percentages relating to whether individuals had a disability, as per the disability cohort definition or a broader disability indicator. The following characteristics were also considered: age, sex, Aboriginality, type of disability (cognitive, psychosocial, physical), offence type (violent, domestic violence (DV) related, property), whether custodial episodes were sentenced episodes, and whether individuals were recorded as victims of crime during the same 10-year period.
Sixteen per cent of the disability cohort had a finalised matter (caution, youth justice conference, or court appearance) during the 10-year period; 5 per cent had a custodial episode. Across all offence types, rates were highest for those with psychosocial disability, particularly those with both cognitive and psychosocial disabilities. Rates were also higher for males (vs. females), for those aged 15–34 years (vs. <15 years and 35–64 years), for Aboriginal people, and for those recorded as victims of crime. Almost a quarter of young offenders were identified as people with disability (10% in the disability cohort), with rates of disability highest for DV offenders (42% identified with disability, 19% in the disability cohort). Similarly, 27 per cent of adult offenders were identified as people with disability (16% in the disability cohort), with highest rates of disability for property offenders (45% identified with disability, 25% in the disability cohort). Rates of disability were higher in Aboriginal offenders than non-Aboriginal offenders. Aboriginal offenders were also more likely than non-Aboriginal offenders to have been victims of crime during the period. For example, 90 per cent of Aboriginal female young offenders with disability were recorded as victims of crime during the period, versus 59 per cent of non-Aboriginal female young offenders with no identified disability. More than 2 in 5 young people and around 1 in 2 adults with sentenced custodial episodes were identified as people with disability.
A significant proportion of young and adult offenders were identified as people with disability and many of these individuals had also been victims of crime. There is an urgent need for further disability focused research to identify opportunities for strengthened support and diversion for this vulnerable group.