Punishment and Social Control
Prompt- Describe and analyse at least one explanation for the on-going over representation of Indigenous Australians in the penal system This essay explores the issues of representation and incarceration in relation to the Indigenous community. The status of Aboriginal people is indicative of a marginalised group, essentially denying them of equal treatment and rights. In a criminological sense, Indigenous people are more likely to be arrested and charged with more serious criminal offences (Blagg, 2012) leading to an extremely high penal population. Drawing on and analysing forms of systemic violence, this piece argues that over representation is caused by the ongoing legacy of colonialism which serves to undermine the criminal justice system. Colonial law was originally informed by unequal racialised power relationships, all of which has created and sustained the contemporary picture of Aboriginal deviance that we see today. For example, racial violence and neglect from prison authorities has in some instances resulted in the death of Indigenous prisoners. By investigating inquiries into these deaths such as the Royal Commission (1991), it reveals that over representation actually increased (Cunneen, 2009) since these recommendations were implemented. This paper concludes by promoting reconciliation and empowerment of the Aboriginal people – highlighting structural conditions of race, colonialism and criminalisation as well as the more mundane administrative feelings. Ingrained racism on both personal and institutional levels continues to disempower, disadvantage and alienate Aboriginal Australians. This epidemic portion of over representation cannot be explained without reference to white Australia’s annexation and colonisation, linking the complex relationship between colonial power and criminal justice. Violence was a foundational core in the civilising process of Aboriginals, in which a justice system was imposed from above to meet the interests of white colonials and entrench white power and privilege. This takeover was premised on the fact that European culture was superior to all others, and that ‘the other’ must to submit themselves to their over lordship in defining the world on their own terms (RCIADIC, 1991) [sic]. The intergenerational trauma demonstrates the role of the criminal justice system as an agent of colonial policy and often involved in outright violence, or as violence in policies of containment, control and removal (Cunneen, 2001). These procedures were characterised by a repressive military character, dispersing Aboriginal people of their land ownership and leading to high levels of family breakdown and cultural disconnection. The 1835 proclamation exemplifies this experience of grief, a key event which set a provision that Aboriginals were to be conceived outside the Commonwealth law. This essentially meant that Indigenous were now non-citizens without any rights or protection; white colonials now had the right to forcible remove their children and assimilate them in white families. Diverse responses were framed within racialised discourses of welfare and punishment, like the Rottnest Island Reformatory which was very symbolic as being a harsh environment. Indigenous offenders were instructed in useful knowledge how to behave like civilised people, spending years locked away for minor offences. The mechanisms of control that kept Aboriginal people in check withdrew, eventually leading to impoverished towns and fringe communities typified by poor education and health systems. Proclamation legislation racially segregated Indigenous people and then proceeded to criminalise certain types of behaviour (Cuneen, 2009). For example, the criminalisation of indigenous people for alcohol offences and subsequent incarceration began with the introduction of proclamation law. The deprivation of liberty through administration of the criminal justice system, enforced extensive...
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Blagg, Harry (2012) Re-imagining Youth Justice: Cultural Contestation in the Kimberley Region of Australia since the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Theoretical Criminology, Sage Publications.
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Cunneen, Chris (2009) Indigenous Incarceration: The Violence of Colonial Law and Justice in P. Scraton & J. McCulloch (eds) The Violence of Incarceration, London: Routledge. pp. 209-224
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Magistrates Court of Victoria (2013) Koori Court: Home, viewed September 2013
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