The aim of this research was investigate the impact of the NSW Youth Koori Court (YKC) on youth justice outcomes, including the probability of being sentenced to a juvenile control order (JCO) and recidivism.
Youth justice outcomes for Aboriginal young people referred to YKC were compared with outcomes for Aboriginal young people who had their matter finalised in a specialist NSW Children’s Court (CC) through the usual court process. Two estimation strategies were used in this study to compare outcomes. The first was a regression model that included an extensive range of control variables, such as demographics, offence types and prior offending history. The second was a difference-in-differences (DiD) model that measured changes in youth justice outcomes at Parramatta CC after the establishment of the YKC in February 2015.
Aboriginal young people referred to the YKC were substantially less likely to be sentenced to a JCO. The estimates from both the regression and DiD models were similar: the main regression specification indicated that YKC participants were 5.9 percentage points less likely to be sentenced to a JCO. This is equivalent to a 40% reduction in the probability of being sentenced to a JCO. The DiD estimate indicated an 8.1 percentage point reduction. Among those not sentenced to a JCO, YKC participants were 7.6 percentage points less likely to be sentenced to a JCO at re-conviction within 12 months of index court finalisation. Each of these reductions were statistically significant. Furthermore, there were statistically significant reductions in sentencing and recidivism outcomes among young people with no prior custodial episodes and those charged with at least one violent or property offence at index court finalisation.
There is an association between the NSW YKC and the diversion of young Aboriginal people from custody, without any apparent adverse impact on recidivism. However, the authors cannot be confident that these estimates are causal.