Harsher Sentences? Indigeneity and prison sentence length in Western Australia's higher courts
Overall, reviews of international sentencing research conclude that offenders' race/ethnicity has a direct effect on sentencing outcomes. Although specific research on Indigenous status and sentencing is much more limited, there is emerging evidence that Indigeneity also has a direct impact on sentencing outcomes. While North American research suggests harsher outcomes, Australian research indicates more lenient outcomes at some stage of the process. The current study examines the effect of Indigenous status on the length of imprisonment decision in Western Australia's higher courts. We found that Indigenous offenders receive shorter terms of imprisonment than non-Indigenous offenders in statistically similar circumstances. We argue that our findings are broadly consistent with focal concerns of blameworthiness, risk and practical concerns having an impact on decisions about length of term. However, Indigeneity does not evoke the same judicial perceptions of race as suggested by prior North American research.
Journal of Sociology
Courts and Sentencing