Report

Caution versus conference referral: a comparison of police diversion in reducing re-contact by first-time Indigenous juvenile offenders in South Australia

1 Jul 2015
Description

This report compares the effectiveness of formal police cautioning and family conferencing in reducing re-contact with the criminal justice system by first-time Indigenous juvenile offenders.

Introduction

The over-representation of Indigenous young people in the criminal justice system remains a significant social justice and public policy issue in Australia. It has been suggested that an increased use of effective police diversion can reduce Indigenous over-representation. Diversion can be defined as the practice of diverting young people from entering or continuing into the formal criminal justice system and commonly involves pre-court processes and programs. Two of the most frequently used methods of diversion in South Australia are formal police cautioning and family conferencing.

While a number of studies have investigated the effectiveness of diversion in reducing re-offending by Indigenous juveniles, only Cunningham (2007) and Allard et al. (2009) have investigated the effectiveness of formal police cautioning and family conferencing in reducing re-offending by first-time Indigenous juvenile offenders (F-TIJOs). However, these two studies report conflicting findings and contain notable methodological limitations, including: (i) short follow-up periods, (ii) failure to track re-offending into adulthood, (iii) small sample sizes, (iv) failure to examine more than two recidivism outcomes, and (v) risks of bias due to failure to control for significant predictors of re-offending and failure to analyse data on intention to treat.

The current study aimed to compare the effectiveness of two methods of diversion; cautioning and referral to conferencing, in reducing re-contact by F-TIJOs using methods to overcome the limitations of previous research. To address these methodological limitations the current study (i) employed a follow-up period of 24 months for each offender regardless of whether this period extended into the adult justice system, (ii) analysed four recidivism outcomes, (iii) analysed data on intention to treat, and (iv) employed propensity score matching to control for significant predictors of re-offending.

The following research question was examined: (1) Did the proportion of F-TIJOs who re-contacted with police within 24 months differ between those who received a formal police caution and those who received a referral to a family conference?

For those who re-contacted within 24 months, the following research questions were also examined: (2) Did the frequency of re-contact differ between F-TIJOs who received a formal police caution and those who received a referral to a family conference?, (3) Did the seriousness of first re-contact differ between F-TIJOs who received a formal police caution and those who received a referral to a family conference?, and (4) Did time to re-contact differ between F-TIJOs who received a formal police caution and those who received a referral to a family conference?

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2015
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