CRC funded reports
The Council received reports from 15 completed research projects during the year 1988-89. Summaries of these reports are given below. These reports are held by the Australian Institute of Criminology's JV Barry Library and are available on inter-library loan. For full bibliographic information on any report, search the Library's Catalogue.
- Assessment of impact of changes to parole system
- Randomised clinical trial of brief behaviourally-oriented interventions for pre-delinquents
- Evaluating diversionary impact of community based corrections
- Public disorder in contemporary Australia
- Prevalence of intellectually handicapped offenders serving custodial and non-custodial sentences
- The limits of the criminal law: the regulation of insider trading
- Intellectually disabled persons as victims of crime
- The morale of prison officers in New South Wales
- Application of the NETMAP system to intelligence use
- Police perceptions of and responses to domestic violence in a rural community
- Crime in the Geelong region, 1982/1985 - a study of class, ethnicity and gender
- Preliminary investigation into persons with severe behaviour disorders who are registered with the South Australian Department of Correctional Services (D.C.S.)
- Feasibility of using moire fringes as an aid to revealing and comparing faint fingerprints and partial prints
- Victims and the criminal justice system in South Australia
- Careers of institutionalised serious offenders
Report titles: Parole Legislation Changes in South Australia (PDF 2.6MB) / F Morgan, L Roeger and A Sutton, Department of Correctional Services; and The Impact of Parole Legislation Change in South Australia, Social Issues Series No. 2 / 1989, Department of Correctional Services Research and Planning Unit and Office of Crime Statistics, Attorney-General's Department, Adelaide
Grantees: Frank Morgan, South Australian Department of Correctional Services, Adelaide
Criminology Research Council grant ; (18/84)
This study investigated the impact of changes in Parole legislation in South Australian in December 1983. These changes removed the Parole Board's power to deny the release of a person sentenced to imprisonment for a year or more at the end of the non-parole period and allowed parole release dates to be brought forward by up to a third through remissions. One of the objectives of the changes was to move toward a more clear-cut and determinate mode of sentencing. Research was conducted into:
- the acceptance of the changes by judges, magistrates, correctional staff and offenders;
- sentencing patterns before and after the changes; and
- a comparison of recidivism rates of prisoners released after the changes with rates of those prisoners released before.
Interviews were conducted with judges and magistrates, correctional and parole officers, prison managers, prisoners and parolees. The research indicates that while there were some problems in the transition to the new parole system, almost all groups interviewed preferred it to the old. Judges and magistrates could not be so easily categorised as either supporting or rejecting the new system, but indicated a clear preference for the location of release powers with the courts rather than with the Parole Board. Parole officers (80 per cent), prisoners (77 per cent), parolees (71 per cent) and correctional officers (59 per cent) preferred the new system but were under no illusion that it would provide a permanent solution to prison problems.
The analysis of sentencing patterns indicated that head sentences increased in the first 18 months after the parole changes and increased yet again in the following 18 months. Non-parole periods increased markedly in the first 18 months after the changes and again increased, but more modestly, in the final time period considered. Regression of non-parole period against head sentence indicated that the non-parole period became a much greater fraction of head sentence in the two time periods after the changes. The parole legislation was the cause of a large decrease in the population of sentenced prisoners immediately after its introduction, but this was followed by a sustained period of growth as non-parole periods and sentences were adjusted upwards. Numbers of prisoners under parole supervision have increased rapidly.
The recidivism research used a method of recidivism analysis known as survival analysis and followed up released prisoners for periods varying between two and five years. The estimated five year recidivism rate for the whole sample was 65 per cent and the pattern of recidivism over time showed that released prisoners are at most risk of reconviction during the early months after release. Those who are not reconvicted within 30 months after release have excellent prospects of remaining conviction free after five years. The recidivism rate for the sample of prisoners released after the changes was marginally lower than the rate for the those released before. A further breakdown showed that those selected for parole release had the lowest recidivism rates ahead of those released mandatorily to parole after the changes. Parolees released unconditionally prior to the changes had the highest recidivism rates. The research also showed associations between recidivism and race, sex, age, offence category and number of previous convictions.
Report title: Randomised Clinical Trial of Brief Behaviourally-oriented Interventions for Pre-delinquents (PDF 1.3MB)
Grantees: Prof R Sanson-Fisher and Dr S Redman, Faculty of Medicine, University of Newcastle
Criminology Research Council grant ; (10/85)
This study sought to:
- design and standardise a brief teacher-rated behaviour scale suitable for assessment of conduct disorders in Australian pupils aged 10 to 15 years; and
- evaluate a short-term prevention-oriented cognitive- behavioural intervention which focuses on conduct disordered pupils.
Development of the scale took place in two stages. In the first stage, the reliability of the scale items was ascertained by (1) testing whether the responses of two different teachers completing the scale independently about the same child agreed; and (2) testing whether the response of one teacher completing the scale about a particular child at two different times agreed. Adequate reliability was demonstrated for 26 of the 35 scale items. In the second stage, the construct validity (the extent to which the test may be said to measure a theoretical construct or trait) of the 26-item scale was tested by factor analysis. This method identified five factors (acting out, distractability, peer relations, immaturity/withdrawal, and delinquency) which identify conduct disorders.
It was concluded that the 26-item scale has several advantages including its suitability for an Australian sample. The researchers recommend that the scale form part of a battery of tests to be used to accurately measure behaviour problems.
The evaluation study comprised a randomised clinical trial with one and six-month follow-up. The sample included 61 experimental pupils and 62 control pupils. Data were collected from three sources: parents and guardians; pupils; and teachers. While some non-significant improvements were noted, the results failed to indicate global improvements, maintenance and generalisation. First, parent measures failed to show a statistically significant improvement. However, non-significant improvements were noted in social competence and negative behaviour. Similar results were found for pupil measures; however, a non-significant improvement in pupils' status scores was noted. Teacher measures also failed to indicate a statistically significant improvement in experimental pupils. Instead, a significant deterioration was noted in the short term in general behaviour (as measured by the Achenbach Teacher Report Form total behaviour score). In addition, a non-significant improvement was noted in the short-term in more specific conduct (as measured by the Endeavour Behaviour Rating Scale total behaviour score). These results suggest a number of possible recommendations for future interventions.
These include ensuring that selection criteria are met; incorporating environmental support (e.g. from parents and teachers); lengthening the intervention period; and incorporating more intensive programming for generalisation.
Report title: The Diversionary Impact of Community Based Corrections: Evaluating the Diversionary Impact of Community Based Corrections
Grantees: Research Unit, Office of Corrections Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (1/86)
The aim of this study was to determine whether the availability of a range of intensive community-based corrections (CBC) sentences resulted in either the diversion to CBC programs of offenders who would otherwise have gone to prison, or net widening to include offenders who would otherwise have received a non-correctional punishment such as a fine or a bond. The sentences whose impact was the focus of the study were Attendance Centre Orders (ACO) and Community Service Orders (CSO), which were introduced in Victoria on a state-wide basis in 1985, and Community-Based Orders, which supplanted ACO's and CSO's in 1986.
In order to determine the specific impact of the introduction of CBC sentences in 1985 and 1986, the design of the study con- trolled a variety of extraneous factors, which could have affected the results.
The data sources for the study were the Court Registers from five Magistrates' Courts: Geelong, Moe, Dandenong, Oakleigh and Sunshine. Only cases where a conviction and sentence was recorded were collected.
The study's results showed that there were very large inter-regional differences in offending and sentencing patterns. As a result, diversion and net widening had to be evaluated on a region by region basis.
In two regions (Southern and Gippsland) the introduction of CBC sentences apparently resulted in a significant degree of diversion from imprisonment, in that the increase in the use of CBC sentences was accompanied by a decrease in the use of imprisonment. In two other regions the evidence was more equivocal; in one region (Western port) the increased use of CBC sentences appeared to result from both diversion from imprisonment and net widening from non-correctional sentences; in the other region (Western) the changes in offending patterns over the course of the study were so great that no reliable conclusions could be drawn. Finally, in the Barwon region the relatively small increase in the use of CBC sentences appeared to be almost entirely due to net widening from fines.
Report title: Public Disorder in Contemporary Australia / R J Holton and Philippa Fletcher (PDF 2.2MB)
Grantees: Dr R J Holton, School of Social Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (26/86)
This project established a database on public disorder in Australia between 1969 and 1984 from a content analysis of the Melbourne Age newspaper. This database was used to analyse the scale and typology of disorder as a basis for analysis of causes, and the impact of different types of policing policy.
Analysis of the data revealed no evidence that rates of public disorder were on the increase during the period under review. The most significant category of disorder involved political pro- test, followed by community disorder and industrial disorder.
There was no evidence that increasing rates of unemployment or multicultural immigration produced any significant increase in public disorder in the decade under observation.
The researcher recommended that police authorities take further steps to monitor rates of public disorder. No major shift in current policing policy was recommended.
Report title: The Incidence of Intellectual Disability in the New South Wales Prison Population: An Empirical Study (PDF 3MB)/ Prof Susan Hayes, Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, The University of Sydney and D. McIlwain
Grantees: NSW Department of Corrective Services
Criminology Research Council grant ; (6/87)
This project sought to assess the incidence of intellectual disability in New South Wales prisons. Five gaols were selected, and prisoners were administered a screening test. Those scoring below a pre-determined cut-off point on the screening test were given a full assessment which included the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the Ravens Progressive Matrices (Standard and/or Coloured), and the Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scale. Using a definition of intellectual disability which incorporated both cognitive and adaptive behaviour deficits, all the data point to an incidence of 12-13 per cent with IQ less than 79, approximately 4 per cent greater than the proportion of intellectually disabled people in the general population. Particularly low levels of functioning were found in the communication sub-domain of the Vineland Scale. Results indicate that intellectually disabled prisoners are found at all security classification levels from minimum to maximum, and have committed offences ranging in severity from mild to serious, including assault and murder.
Aboriginal prisoners were greatly over-represented amongst the intellectually disabled group. In addition, their communication and socialisation were significantly lower than non- Aboriginal Australians.
Participation in the study was not compulsory. Participation rates varied amongst gaols from a low of 45 per cent at Parramatta to a high of 100 per cent at Broken Hill. For these reasons the figure of one in eight prisoners with an intellectual disability must be seen as a base line estimate.
The study has important implications for the management of intellectually disabled prisoners, with the desirability of unit living with opportunities for acquiring social and adaptive skills being highlighted. The need for training of custodial and non-custodial staff is of paramount importance, given that many of the intellectually disabled prisoners are functioning at levels of lower than seven years of age. There are also implications for the availability and design of educational programs to enhance social, relationship, communication and daily living skills so that intellectually disabled prisoners can have the opportunity for independence and a non-criminal lifestyle in the community.
Report titles: Insider Trading in Australia: Part 1 Regulation and Law Enforcement (PDF 3.5MB); Insider Trading in Australia: Part 2 Extent and Effects (PDF 3.4MB); Insider Trading in Australia: Part 3 The Ethical Dimension (PDF 677kB); and Insider Trading in Australia: Part 4 Summary and Recommendations (PDF 1.7MB) / all by Dr Roman Tomasic and Brendan Pentony
Grantees: Dr Roman Tomasic, University of Canberra
Criminology Research Council grant ; (7/87)
This study sought to provide a national perspective relating to the enforcement of criminal sanctions against insider trading in Australia. In so doing, the problems facing national and state corporate regulatory agencies were closely examined and the extent and effects of insider trading documents. This research was the first of this kind to be undertaken in Australia. In-depth interviews were conducted with 99 leading participants in various parts of the securities industry and involved in its regulation. These interviews took place in Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney and involved brokers (21), commercial lawyers (17), financial advisers, such as merchant bankers and fund .I managers (17), market observers, such as financial journalists and representatives of industry groups (10), stock exchange officials (9) and corporate affairs regulators (25). During the course of the project four reports were published by Dr Tomasic and the project co-investigator Mr Brendan Pentony. The final report contained 22 recommendations ranging over a wide number of issues associated with the regulation of insider trading and the enforcement of the sanctions against it. Following completion of this study the Federal Parliament initiated an inquiry into re- forming Australia's insider trading laws in the context of broader efforts to reform corporation law generally.
Report title: Silent Victims: A Study of People with Intellectual Disabilities as Victims of Crime (PDF 3.3MB) / Kelley Johnson, Ruth Andrew and Vivienne Topp
Grantees: Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria (Ben Bodna)
Criminology Research Council grant ; (13/87)
This research aimed to examine the nature and extent of crime against people with intellectual disabilities, the difficulties which they confronted within the criminal justice system when they tried to take action following such crimes, and their experiences as witnesses or victims in court. An extensive consultation was carried out with people with intellectual disabilities, within the criminal justice system. Case studies and agency reports were also employed with those who work with them, and with officials.
The research revealed a lack of recorded information about the nature and extent of crime against people with intellectual disabilities, but found that offences against them occurred in all of the situations in which they lived. Results from the research suggested strongly that people with intellectual disabilities were particularly vulnerable to sexual offences and to physical abuse.
The report recommended changes to living situations including rights of education for people with intellectual disabilities; the development of advocacy (including self-advocacy); and better guidelines for dealing with crimes for staff employed in working with people with intellectual disabilities.
The research found that many crimes against people with intellectual disabilities go unreported because of fear and bad previous experiences by the victims; discouragement from workers; and lack of information about rights. Lack of clear guidelines for workers in dealing with offences against people with intellectual disabilities proved to be one major reason for non-reporting.
The researchers found that even when crimes were reported, the victims were often not heard. Police, lawyers and the courts were not readily accessible to people with intellectual disabilities. Ignorance and lack of skills by workers within the criminal justice system and the inflexibility of structures and processes within the system contributed to this inaccessibility.
Few reported offences actually ended up in court, and when they did the researchers found that people with intellectual disabilities were severely disadvantaged by the court process.
The recommendations in the report focus on the need to develop more flexible and accessible structures and processes within the criminal justice system, to increase the knowledge of workers about intellectual disability and to increase the knowledge of people with intellectual disabilities about their rights.
Report title: The Morale of Prison Officers in New South Wales (PDF 4.2MB)
Grantees: Dr Kevin Smith, Armidale College of Advanced Education
Criminology Research Council grant ; (26/87)
The research sought to develop a Prison Officer Morale Questionnaire based on the researcher's structured theory of morale, and to identify, through survey methods and informal group interviews, the salient features of the morale of prison officers in a sample of New South Wales correctional institutions.
The researcher concluded that the morale of prison officers in New South Wales was low. However, he did observe a notable tenacity and committed enthusiasm among officers in pursuing their duties. Most believed firmly in the importance of the work they did. Attrition rates indicated a low level of attraction to the organisation on the part of a significant number of officers. For some it was an occupation of the last resort; they were seeking other jobs with somewhat less associated stigma. For others, the salary levels were such that they were seeking similar positions in other states. Three-quarters of participants in this survey indicated that they had a strong belief in the importance of their work. Yet, there was not a high level of pride in their vocation. There was deeply-felt doubt about the good reputation of their institutions. On the question of respect for their fellow officers, some few were perceived by their concerned colleagues as quite unsuitable persons to be prison officers.
There was a strong perception that neither government nor the general public recognised the importance of a Prison Officer's work and in many locations that they are not very much appreciated by their local communities.
Recommendations include the formulation of concisely-stated, unambiguous corporate objectives. It was further recommended that participatory procedures be developed for officers to contribute to the formulation of appropriate custodial policies in each institution. In addition the report proposed that sick leave policies for prison officers be reviewed, that welfare services for officers be marginally improved, and that there be improved public relations and recruiting programs for prison officers.
Report title: The NETMAP System: Evaluation of a Trial Application within the National Crime Authority (PDF 1.5MB) / NCA Evaluation Team
Grantees: Dr J Galloway, NETMAP International Pty Ltd, Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/87)
The aim of this project was to test the applicability and examine the relevance of the Netmap System to intelligence use, specifically to certain uses that the National Crime Authority sought to explore. The NETMAP software has already demonstrated its effectiveness in various commercial application areas in facilitating analysis of relationship and communication patterns and in detecting networks and graphically displaying those networks and associated linkages.
The primary goal of this project was to determine the viability of the NETMAP software to assist law enforcement intelligence analysts in their examination of criminal and suspected criminal organisations through visual analysis technology to gain a better understanding of current criminal relationships and to facilitate efficient and effective methods of targeting.
Included among the various types of intelligence data which formed the basis of this trial, were visual and interactive analysis of telephone traffic data, money and asset flows, suspected fraudulent relationships, criminal case accumulated relationships and sequencing, and various 'live' investigations.
The research was conducted in cooperation with the National Crime Authority and the Authority conducted an evaluation of the project. The evaluation concluded that the results of the trial were encouraging and vindicated the earlier vision of producing 'the original intelligence officer's crystal ball'. Advantages of the NETMAP software to an intelligence analyst included the fact that NETMAP pictures can display data which the user can manipulate to show specific emerging patterns. Thus the analyst can view all relevant data from different perspectives very easily and quickly. The evaluation noted that this was the beginning of visual analysis technology which was a 'quantum leap forward for intelligence analysts'. The evaluation concluded that netmapping was both a timely and cost-effective way for analysts to support criminal investigations.
Report title: Domestic Violence and the Police Who is Being Protected? A Rural Australian View (4.9MB)
Grantees: Lyla B Coorey (formerly Samyia), Department of Social Work, The University of Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (10/87)
This project has been an attempt to explore the nature of prolonged domestic violence in a country town of New South Wales, Australia. Its focus has been primarily on the police response but also addresses the particular difficulties confronting women living in rural areas, whether in town or on remote properties.
In Australia domestic violence in country areas has received very little attention to date. Yet according to a recent report by Alison Wallace, The Social Reality of Homicide (1986), there is a disproportionate number of domestic homicides in rural areas indicating that violence here is more violent than in metropolitan areas. Recent studies of domestic violence in metropolitan Australia indicate that it is such factors as the oppression of women generally in society, and the lack of options available to them in employment, higher education and child care, that contribute to protracted stays in abusive relationships. 'Why do women stay?' is one of the least understood questions, yet the most commonly asked. These factors that are known to keep women trapped in this sort of situation are more intense in country regions and may shed some light on why violent relationships here are more likely to culminate in homicide. The report makes a number of proposals for governmental action to deal with this problem.
Report title: Crime in the Geelong Region 1982-7: A study of patterns of crime offences in Geelong, based on the variables of age, gender, birthplace and residence (PDF 3MB) / Neville T. Millen, Deakin University and Warwick A. Eather, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga
Grantee: Centre for Australian Studies, School of Humanities, Deakin University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/88)
This study sought to measure and evaluate the incidence of crime in Geelong over the years 1982-87. The data for this study were obtained from a quota sample of 1957 crime arrest reports, gleaned from Geelong CIB records. The sample chosen comprised 31 categories of crime, each chosen systematically, at random, and in accordance with varying selection schedules. The study sought to compare the crime rates for different people according to the key variables of sex, age, ethnicity and social class.
In conjunction with 1981 and 1986 census data on Geelong's population, the survey data on crime arrests in the study were used to develop rates per thousand arrests for crime, and rates per thousand arrests for offenders, for each of Geelong's suburbs and regional townships.
The survey findings were subsequently compared with the results obtained from a similar study conducted by Biles and Copeland in 1976 for the Australian Institute of Criminology. This current study is more than a retrospective view of crime in Geelong; it identified in some detail the more recent trends in the growth and decline of crime and offender rates in the Geelong region.
Preliminary investigation into persons with severe behaviour disorders who are registered with the South Australian Department of Correctional Services (D.C.S.)
Report title: The Identification of Behaviour Disorder within the Community / A. Etchells, U. Dahl, D. Tustin, A. Burgess, F. Morgan, W. Lucas (PDF 516kB)
Grantees: Ursula Dahl, Timothy Anstey, and A Burgess South Australian Health Commission; Mr Don Tustin, Chief Clinical Psychologist, Minda (inc.), Adelaide
Criminology Research Council grant ; (14/87)
The results of this project strongly indicated that Behaviour Disorder is a disorder in its own right, resulting in chronically disruptive behaviour that is not appropriate for diagnosis and management in a psychiatric setting (other than where psychiatric disorder also exists) and is not likely to respond either to conventional therapies or to traditional correctional service rehabilitation. The strongest aetiological hypothesis offered is that Behaviour Disorder results from a deficit in social learning ability, with or without concomitant intellectual deficit. There is a pressing need for research into the early identification and treatment of Behaviour Disorder and for the funding of services geared to the particular problems presented by this group.
Feasibility of using moire fringes as an aid to revealing and comparing faint fingerprints and partial prints
Report title: Feasibility of Using Moire Fringes as an Aid to Revealing and Comparing Faint Fingerprints and Partial Prints (PDF 1.9MB)
Grantees: Dr Barry S Thornton, School of Mathematical Sciences, NSW Institute of Technology, Sydney and Mr Constantine Malanos, Computer Consultant and Part-time Lecturer, NSW Institute of Technology, Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (20/87)
Moire patterns formed from a transparent grid over a finger-print might sometimes provide aid for print comparisons because of their particular spatial sensitivity to small deviations between two patterns, particularly when the reference grid is slowly moved over two fingerprints. The specificity of description of these pattern changes is subjective and such that it may be limited to individual expert assessment and may not be practical for a database for general use.
The Moire fringe methods studied in this project appear to be of value only in special cases where conventional methods have difficulties, e.g. minutiae .not registered and where the print specialists may seek additional aids to support their main conclusions. The Moire method appears to be useful on some occasions such as when only a partial print is available and other tests are inconclusive. In the case of a fingerprint on a newspaper where the print matrix of dots obscures or confuses the minutiae detail, image processing may retrieve a print but without sufficient minutiae and which then would benefit from an additional test.
The method of Moire fringes has been tried on prints on a number of different types of surfaces. Their use in actually revealing faint prints is not yet practical but they sometimes can be used on prints of less than desirable quality which have been recovered from latent fingerprints by other means.
Report titles: Victims of Crime: An Overview of Research and Policy, Series C, No. 3, November 1988; and Criminal Injuries Compensation in South Australia, Series B, No. 5, February 1989 / both published by the Office of Crime Statistics, Attorney-General's Department, Adelaide.
Grantees: Attorney-General's Department, Office of Crime Statistics, South Australia (Gloria K. Rossini, Chief Investigator and Julie Gardner)
Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/87)
Two reports have been published from this project by the South Australian Office of Crime Statistics on victims and the criminal justice system in South Australia entitled: Victims of Crime: An Overview of Research and Policy, and Criminal Injuries Compensation in South Australia.
The first reviews existing literature and research. It also summarises policy initiatives in South Australia aimed at improving the position of people who become victims of crime. The report begins from an historical perspective: assessing the past role of victims in society; the recent development of the victims movement; and problems with the definition of a victim. Statistical information on crime victims, the impact of the offence, fear of crime and the current role and status of victims also are covered. The publication concludes with a summary of legislative changes, and of responses to the South Australian Government's 'Bill of Rights' for victims 1985.
The publication on Criminal Injuries Compensation in South Australia focuses on the current operations of the scheme and assesses claimants' experiences with and attitudes toward the compensation process. The study examined 547 files from the Attorney-General's Department of South Australia and interviewed 110 claimants. The sample was taken from claims lodged in three six-month periods: January to June 1984, 1985 and 1986.
Key issues addressed by the study included: factors influencing the granting and size of payments made under the fund; time taken to process the claim; compensation as part of a court based system; and claimants' experiences and overall assessment of the procedure. The study concluded that victims had two major criticisms of the current scheme:
- that maximum levels of payment and actual amounts received were too low; and
- that too much time elapsed before applications were finalised.
Victims were not however disillusioned with the process, and although time taken to award compensation was seen as a negative factor by those who had complaints about the system, the majority of claimants were satisfied with the speed with which compensation had been granted.
Report titles: Careers of Institutionalised Chronic and Serious Offenders / R.A. Maller and R.G. Broadhurst; On the 'Careers' of Sex Offenders in the Western Australian Prison Population / R.G. Broadhurst and R.A. Maller; and Sex Offending and Recidivism / Roderic G. Broadhurst and Ross A. Maller, Research Report No. 3, Crime Research Centre, The University of Western Australia, Nedlands, 1991
Grantees: Dr Ross Maller, Department of Mathematics, The University of Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (3/88)
The first report, 'Careers' of Chronic Institutionalised and Serious Offenders, takes two approaches to the question' do offenders tend to commit more serious crimes with continuing returns to prison?' An answer to this question was sought by analysis of a large data file which is described in the report. The first approach, using a 'one-step' method of estimation of probabilities of recidivism on successive returns to prison, showed overall probabilities of recidivism rise rapidly on successive returns to prison, plateauing at about 0.8 (for male non-Aboriginals) and at about 0.9 (for male and female Aboriginals) by about the fourth or fifth imprisonment. The numbers for female non-Aboriginals were too small for estimation. At each step, roughly equal proportions were estimated to be imprisoned for offences which were less, equal, or more serious than the previous, according to an offence rating scale devised in the report. There were some small but significant departures from equality of proportions. The second approach looked along an offender's record and asked whether the offender ever committed a crime more serious than the first and, if so, whether the offender subsequently ever committed a more serious crime.
The second report restricts itself to offenders convicted at, some time in their 'careers' of the following types of offences:
- carnal knowledge and other sex offences excluding rape;
- rape; and
- homicide, wilful murder and attempted murder.
The subjects in the study were derived from a large computerised prisoner record file of offenders released for the first time from Western Australian gaols between 1975-1987.
The study addressed the question of the probabilities of return to prison for any offence, subsequent to an offence of the above type, and how it varied with race, type of offence and whether prior imprisonments had been recorded. In addition, it addressed the probabilities of imprisonment for another violent offence at any time subsequent to imprisonment for an offence of the above type, and how it varied with the above factors.
In summary, the research found:
- A relatively high proportion of offenders eventually repeat the same or similar offences, especially those involving sexual assault.
- Serious sex offenders and non-Aboriginals had approximately a 38 per cent chance of returning to prison for any offence, while Aboriginals had a 77 per cent chance. Having a prior record significantly increased the probability of failing for either race.
- High probabilities were also estimated for the sex offenders (homicide cases excluded) to return for another violent of- fence. In excess of 20 per cent of non-Aboriginal cases were estimated to do so, and for Aboriginals the estimate exceeded 60 per cent. Prior record influenced rapidity of failure (those with prior records failed sooner) but not the probability of ultimate repetition of a violent offence. Small numbers of cases presented some problems in these analyses.
- For homicide offenders probabilities of failing for any offence did not differ from those of sexual offenders. There were too few cases to allow estimation of failure to another violent offence.
- Detailed consideration of the records of these offenders suggested that recidivists tend to be 'generalists' rather than 'specialists' in offence preferences. But prisoners incarcerated for incest provide little evidence of prior violent or sexual offences.
- Overwhelmingly, violent offences seem associated with offenders who show a pattern of aggressive behaviour, suggesting that aggression rather than perversion may be the more salient characteristic of sexual assault offenders. Nevertheless large numbers of sex offenders never return to prison.