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Pre-sentence reports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an analysis of language and sentiment

Risk assessment First Peoples Sentencing Courts Sentencing Criminal law Recidivism Victoria

Pre-sentence reports (PSRs) provide information to courts on an individual’s background, circumstances, risks, needs and plans. Research has found that PSRs focus heavily on risk of recidivism, while identification of prosocial cultural and community factors is limited.

This study sought to describe the language and sentiment in these reports. The authors studied PSRs written for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people sentenced by the mainstream County Court of Victoria and the Koori Court Division of the County Court of Victoria. Findings indicate that risk-related words are more prevalent than words associated with strengths and culture in PSRs submitted to both courts. While the frequency of positive and negative sentiment was low in PSRs for both courts, those for the Koori Court were more positive in sentiment.

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Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice, no.659