Offending over the life course: Contact with the NSW criminal justice system between age 10 and age 33
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To estimate the prevalence of contact with the NSW criminal justice system (CJS), the court system (after the first CJS contact) and the prison system amongst a cohort of people born in 1984 who are now 33 years of age.
Prevalence estimates are obtained by counting the number of people at each age from 10 (the age of criminal responsibility) to age 33 making their first CJS contact (as defined above) and dividing each count by an estimate of the population in that year and for that year of age. We sum the estimates at each age to arrive at a figure for the cumulative proportion that have had some form of CJS contact. To estimate the prevalence of contact with the custodial system (juvenile or adult) we repeat this process for each person appearing in a NSW court (including the NSW Children’s Court) who received a penalty of full-time custody.
Nearly a third (32.4%) of those born in 1984 have, over the next 25 years, had some contact with the NSW criminal justice system (a police caution, a cannabis caution, a youth justice conference or an appearance in court). Just less than a quarter (24.4%) appeared in court. Nearly a half (48.4%) of all men, one in six women (15.8%) and more than a third (35.5%) of Aboriginal members of the cohort have had contact with the CJS. The percentages of males, females and Aboriginal Australians in the cohort who have received at least one custodial penalty are 4.2 per cent, 0.5 per cent and 13.2 per cent, respectively. The mean frequencies of contact with the court system (after the first CJS contact) are inversely related to age at first contact. Cohort members aged under 15 at their first CJS contact appeared in court after their first contact 7.5 times more often than those whose first contact with the CJS occurred when they were 25 years or older. On average those aged 10-14 at their first CJS contact received more than five custodial penalties over the next 25 years, compared with 1.2 for those whose first CJS contact occurred when they were 25 or older. The top 10 per cent of the cohort, in terms of court contacts and custodial penalties, accounted for 43 per cent of all court contacts and 39 per cent of all custodial penalties.
Efforts to reduce persistent contact with the criminal justice system and demand for criminal justice resources should focus on young people making their first contact with the criminal justice system before the age of 15.
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