At Christmas this year, as so many gather with their families to celebrate the year and lives together, spare a thought for all the Indigenous mothers locked up in prison and their children who are unable to celebrate.
Ongoing research conducted in Australia, led by Professor Eileen Baldry professor of criminology at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, shows that once an indigenous person enters the juvenile justice system at an early age the statistics show a very high chance that they will continue to be imprisoned repeatedly throughout their entire lives; Indigenous people are routinely incarcerated for minor offences; and that Indigenous mothers with traumatic mental and cognitive health disorders including brain injuries caused by violence and domestic violence are disproportionately represented and their numbers are rising as the policy of penalization has strengthened in recent years.
Australian Research Council funded research, The Australian Prisons Project, led by Professor Baldry, shows that this policy is not working neither as a deterrent or as a solution to social problems of social disadvantage- nor to the mental health and cognitive health problems that are leading to increasing numbers of Indigenous mothers in prison: it causes mass recidivism, frequent returns to prison, and costs the State prohibitive amounts for each repetitively imprisoned Indigenous mother over their lifetime
The groundbreaking international Australian research shows that mass incarceration, the preferred ‘solution’ to crimes of poverty and social disadvantage over the past three decades in ‘post’ colonial countries, has not worked, early imprisonment of Indigenous girls and young women- in juvenile detention centres does not deter crime but leads to lifetime returns to prison, a social failure which is now conclusively proven to be a highly costly economic as well as social burden (Baldry 2012) to ‘decolonizing’ societies around the world.
New creative and humane solutions are needed to address the complex problems eventuating from the impacts of the 'Stolen Generations' policies as the old 'solution' of mass incarceration has been shown not to work.
©Copyright Ruth Skilbeck 30 November 2012
Baldry, Eileen and Cunneen, Chris (2012) ‘Contemporary Penality in the Shadow of Colonial
Patriarchy ‘ in Coventry, Garry & Shincore, Mandy (Eds.). (2012) Proceedings of the 5th
Annual Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference July 7 and 8, 2007. James Cook University, Cairns Campus. Townsville, Queensland: James Cook University. ISBN 978-0-9808572-4-5.
Baldry, Eileen, Dowse, Leanne, Clarence, Melissa (2012) “People with Mental and Cognitive Disabilities: Pathways into Prison.” Background Paper for Outlaws to Inclusion Conference, February 2012.