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CRC funded reports

1992-1993

The Council received reports from 16 completed research projects during the year 1992-93. 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.

  1. Social correlates of suicide in Australia
  2. The effects of deregulatory policies on youth criminality and the connections between poverty and crime
  3. Job design, social supports and occupational stress in prison officers
  4. Unemployment and crime one more time
  5. Crime and compulsive gambling
  6. Forensic application of DNA fingerprints and limitations due to DNA damage
  7. Evaluation of an innovative community based drink driving rehabilitation program
  8. Evaluation of the Hindley Street youth project (HSYP)
  9. An exploration of confrontational homicide in Victoria
  10. The attitudes towards and practice of euthanasia in South Australia
  11. Gender and sentencing in the Victorian magistrates' courts: a pilot project
  12. Social and psychological moderators of the effectiveness of employment and training for repeat juvenile offenders
  13. Program evaluation at the Barwon prison
  14. Women in prison
  15. An estimation of the number of heroin users in the ACT
  16. Coping and conflict resolution skills of young offenders

Social correlates of suicide in Australia

Report title: Suicide in Australia: A Sociological Study (PDF 6MB)
Grantees: Prof Riaz Hassan, Department of Sociology, Flinders University, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/86)

The report provides a general overview of suicide in Australia by focusing on a number of key social factors. Its aim is not to minimise the importance of psychogenic factors in suicide but to highlight its sociological aspects. Besides providing an introduction to the sociology of suicide the first three chapters analyse suicide trends in Australia and the social and economic factors associated with the fluctuation in the suicide rates over the past one hundred years. Special attention is paid to the role of economic, social and demographic factors which have elevated suicide rates in two theatres of life: the very young and the aged. The next five chapters examine the mediating role of work, family, occupation, gender, age, temporal cycle, seasons, immigration and ethnicity in suicidal behaviour in Australia. The last three chapters examine and explore in detail the etiological framework for explaining suicidal behaviour as well as the stability and change in methods of suicide. The book provides a synthesis of the existing studies of suicide and new and original evidence on the relationship between suicide and social factors. It is argued that study of suicide is an instructive way of understanding the social organisation of death and dying in contemporary Australian society. The empirical evidence presented in the book shows that suicidal behaviour like other forms of social behaviour has important symbolic content and in the final analysis it is shaped by the same social forces which influence and regulate the other general patterns of social life in society. In other words all the reasons which are good enough to live for are also good enough to die for. It is the first systematic sociological study of suicide in Australia. It should be of interest to university students and academics in the fields of sociology, psychology, medicine, law and social work. It can be used as a textbook in specialised university courses in these fields. Its contents should also be of interest to police, legal professionals, teachers and members of welfare professions. It is written in a manner to make its contents accessible to members of the general public who are interested in the subject and would like to expand and deepen their understanding of the problem of suicide which now claims one life every four hours in Australia.

Articles published in journals as a result of this research are listed in Appendix 2 of this report.

The effects of deregulatory policies on youth criminality and the connections between poverty and crime

Report title: The Effects of Deregulatory Policies on Youth Criminality and the Connections between Poverty and Crime (PDF 743kB)
Grantees: M Presdee, now at Department of Social and Education Studies, Christ Church College, Canterbury, Kent UK; formerly Magill Campus, University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (6/88)

Given the acute and continuing state of youth unemployment and poverty in Australia over the last ten years, it is both timely and important that research into the connections between youth, poverty and crime be investigated. This study has looked historically at the pressures that have been brought to bear on young people in Australia and the continuing policing of youthful pleasures. Now at a time of soaring youth unemployment the pressures of poverty can be seen to be drawing young people into doing wrong or what Focault would call 'transgressions'. Much of this crime is of a subsistence nature and has become a necessary part of being poor, resulting in the case of young people of the policing of poverty.

For young women an integral part of the transgressions of poverty involves participation in the vice industry as part of the black or cash economy.

Australia is experiencing an increasingly vulnerable group of young people who fall outside the guarantee of either work, training, or education and who are being pushed by policies to the margins of Australian everyday life. There is a need for careful consideration of the following:

Action by all States needs to be immediate, otherwise the urban riots experienced in recent times in both the UK and the USA will quickly become a reality throughout Australia.

Job design, social supports and occupational stress in prison officers

Report title: The Effects of Job Design on Physical and Mental Health Among Prison Officers / David Morrison, Robert Fitzgerald and Michael Dunne. 1992(PDF 5.5MB)
Grantees: Dr David Morrison, Psychology Department, University of Western Australia and Dr Robert Fitzgerald, Department of Corrective Services, Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (20/88)

The problems faced by the penal system and ultimately by prison officers appear to have increased as a result of developments that have occurred in the past few years. Examples of such changes include:

Given the nature of the job, and the specific stressors or changes which are imposed from time to time, many questions arise. For example, is it the case that prison officers report more 'stress' than the general population, experience more physical health problems than the average person, job satisfaction and its relation to stress and health, officers' personality. Can selection methods be refined to exclude those less well suited to the nature of the job.

Many of these questions are addressed in this study. In addition, the model of stress proposed by Karasek which claims that job strain is influenced by the interaction of three job characteristics: job demands, supports and constraints. A fourth variable 'personality' was added to the model. One aim was to examine the moderating influence of negative effect and job characteristics on physical and mental well-being. Specifically, it was predicted that job demands and negative effect would combine, interactively, to account for a significant proportion of the variability in measures of mental and physical well-being.

The report contains the results of a survey of 391 prison officers conducted in 1990. In broad terms the data reveal that the prison officers participating in the study were physically and mentally less healthy than what would be expected of a sample taken from the wider community. In addition, there was also a significant sex difference in officer well-being, with female officers fairing significantly better than their male counterparts.

Differences between prisons were evident. Officers in medium security prisons had higher levels of job satisfaction and exhibited fewer symptoms of physical ill-health. They also perceived their working environment as being more supportive of them and less constraining. This pattern of results is in contradiction of the data from a smaller study in 1991 where it was found that officers in a medium/maximum security prison were the least healthy. Given that officer health seems to be related to job perceptions, it is suggested that the better health, observed in the medium security prisons, may reflect a successful transition to unit management practices. Other prisons have not yet had as much experience with this system.

Officers' perception of job demands as well as work and non-work social supports were found to have a significant impact on work attitudes, absenteeism rates, mental and physical well-being and health-related behaviours. Negative effect was also found to influence these variables, but its influence was most notable when it was found to interact with job demands and non-work supports.

Several practical and theoretical implications follow from the results of this study. One suggestion is that selection strategies may be usefully employed to reduce overall levels of stress in the officer population. Measures of negative effect may prove to be particularly useful in this regard. This strategy, however, will only be of benefit to those officers employed in the future. A second outcome is that the degree to which work and non-work supports can be manipulated, or increased, will have a positive impact on well-being and attitude. As such, this strategy offers a proactive management strategy which will have benefit for current as well as future employees.

It is also clear from the study that additional refinement and standardisation of the instruments which measure job characteristics is needed. The various facets of job demands, supports and constraints need to be investigated more thoroughly to determine their underlying factorial structure. More refined measures will lead to better predictions and, perhaps, more effective intervention strategies. The absence of generally accepted and standardised measures of job characteristics makes it difficult to compare studies on the absolute levels of adversity and subsequent strain experienced by job incumbents. Until better instruments are developed, it is important that more longitudinal research is undertaken as this would be beneficial in helping to determine the causal influences of job characteristics on changing levels of strain.

Unemployment and crime one more time

Report title: Unemployment and Crime: Resolving the Paradox / John Braithwaite, Bruce Chapman and Cezary Kapuscinski. 1992 (PDF 2.5MB)
Grantees: Dr John Braithwaite and Dr Bruce Chapman, Australian National University, Australian National University
Criminology Research Council grant ; (50/89)

While official crime statistics from many countries show that unemployed people have high crime rates and that communities with a lot of unemployment experience a lot of crime, this cross-sectional relationship is very often not found in time-series studies of unemployment and crime. In Australia there have been no individual-level or cross-sectional studies of unemployment and adult crime which have failed to find a positive relationship, and no time series studies which have supported a positive relationship. This is the paradox of unemployment and crime. Consistent with this pattern, a time-series of homicide from 1921 to 1987 in Australia reveals no significant unemployment effect. A theoretical resolution of the paradox is advanced in terms of the effect of female employment on crime in a patriarchal society. Crime is posited as a function of both total unemployment and female employment. When female employment is added to the model, it has a strong effect on homicide, and unemployment also assumes a strong positive effect.

The key to sorting out the complex effects of employment on crime is therefore to realise that the employment rate is not the opposite of the unemployment rate. The report shows that female unemployment increases the homicide rate at the same time as rising female employment also increases the homicide rate. The policy implication is that unemployment is a cause of crime but that if female employment rates are allowed to rise without a support structure for employed women (child care, after-school care, men who are willing to share domestic work, flexible working hours) then crime will rise. The Scandinavian countries have achieved high female labour force participation without pushing up crime rates as a result because they have provided more systematic structures of support for working women. While this is the policy implication if the conclusions of the report are right, more research is needed to test the analysis on different kinds of data sets.

The paradox of unemployment and crime is explored in Part I of the report through a brief review of the empirical evidence. This shows that there is a strong positive association between crime and unemployment at the individual level, a clear positive association at the cross-sectional level that gets weaker as the level of geographical aggregation increases, but quite an inconsistent relationship over time.

In Part II, a theoretical resolution to the paradox is advanced based on the contention that crime in general is a function of both total unemployment and female employment. Although various types of crime are expected to provide differential support of this theory, the contention is that crime in general will rise with both total unemployment and female employment. Our empirical evaluation of this hypothesis (presented in Part III) is restricted to one type of crime (homicide) in one country (Australia). Finally, Part IV addresses some policy implications of the revised understanding of the relationships between unemployment and crime developed in the previous two parts.

The report therefore makes three quite separate contributions. Part I provides a synthesis of the literature which allows us to make sense of the confusion most criminologists feel about the state of the empirical evidence on unemployment and crime. There are good reasons to be cynical both about the claims of those who say that unemployment has been discredited as an explanation. Part II is a contribution to the theory of unemployment and crime. It faults previous theoretical work for failing to think clearly about the separate effects of male and female unemployment and male and female employment in a patriarchal society. A theory that focuses on the significance of employment-unemployment in a patriarchal society not only opens up the prospect of an understanding of unemployment with more empirican bite; it also supplies a normative and historical framework for resisting the ill-conceived policy inference that keeping women in the home is a good way to fight crime. This issue is taken up in Part IV. In this context, Part III is not even the beginning of a systematic test of the theory in Part II. It is simply an illustration of how the theory in Part II can guide a fruitful respecification of studies of unemployment and crime.

Crime and compulsive gambling

Report title: Pathological Gambling and Criminal Behaviour (PDF 8.3MB)
Grantees: Assoc Prof N McConaghy, Psychiatric Department, Prince of Wales Hospital, Sydney and Dr Alex Blaszczynski, Academic Mental Health Unit, University of New South Wales, Liverpool Hospital
Criminology Research Council grant ; (1/87)

This study represents the first Australian attempt to obtain empirical data describing the nature and prevalence of gambling-related criminal behaviours amongst diagnosed pathological gamblers.

Since the 1973 Tasmanian Interdepartmental Committee Report, government inquiries and reviews on the gambling industry have consistently emphasised the paucity of available information outlining the social and welfare impact of gambling on the general community. While it is readily acknowledged that significant economic, revenue and political advantages are gained by the community in general and State governments in particular, it is equally recognised by welfare organisations that severe negative effects are suffered by a minority of adults diagnosed as pathological gamblers. The prevalence rate for pathological gamblers is 0.5 to 1 per cent, a figure comparable to that for the proportion of hard drug users in the community.

Welfare organisations have highlighted social and familial costs associated with excessive gambling but have generally neglected the possible relationship of pathological gambling and the commission of offences to support such gambling habits. Psychiatric and psychological clinical studies have consistently described high rates of illegal behaviours in samples of pathological gamblers seeking treatment. These studies have also noted that a significant proportion of these do not exhibit any evidence of antisocial personality but present before the courts charged with offences motived directly by a need to maintain their habitual gambling and not personal economic gain.

The proposition that a strong causal link exists between gambling and offending has been offered in some American courts of law as an argument for diminished responsibility in defence of gamblers prosecuted for alleged offences, or alternatively and increasingly more common in the Australian context, as a significant mitigating factor which magistrates should rightly take into consideration in sentencing offenders.

The results of this study revealed that a significant proportion (59 per cent) of pathological gamblers participate in some form of illegal activity for the specific purpose of obtaining gambling funds. Approximately 23 per cent of pathological gamblers had committed serious non-violence property offences that resulted in arrest or conviction. Of those charged, 42 per cent received custodial sentences and served an average of one to two years in prison. Importantly, only 15 per cent of the total sample of gamblers studied were classified as having antisocial personality disorders. These findings suggested that offences occurred in response, or secondary, to manifest gambling-induced financial problems.

The frequency and value of offences constitutes a significant legal and social cost to the community. On average, each offending gambler was found to have committed a median of ten offences over a period of ten years. The median monetary value per offence was $300 with a mean value of $4,264. Approximately 14 per cent reported offences ranging between $13,000 and $250,000.

Forensic application of DNA fingerprints and limitations due to DNA damage

Report title: Forensic Application of DNA Fingerprints and Limitations due to DNA Damage (PDF 160kB)
Grantees: Dr Anthony Weiss, Department of Biochemistry, The University of Sydney
Criminology Research Council grant ; (51/89)

This project used three methods of DNA identification: DNA typing using single locus probes; DNA fingerprinting with multi-locus probes; and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for sex determination. The hypothesis to test was whether DNA profiles remain constant over time, including the lifetime of an individual. This has relevance to the potential establishment of computer databases of DNA profiles of criminals as an aid towards identification and prosecution. Two families and unrelated controls have been examined to date and using the three criteria described. In all instances, there was no evidence for change in DNA profiles in these samples, even when cells from rapidly ageing individuals were used. This provides evidence for the stability of DNA profiles over a person's lifetime.

DNA was extracted and purified from 13 human cell lines. These represented two families (A and B) - each having a grogeroid child (family A: proband cell line 3513 and family B: proband cell line 3198). The DNA was then characterised by profiling and sex typing analysis.

The isolated DNA was digested with three restriction endonucleases: PstI, HaeIII and HinfI, size separated by agarose gel electrophoresis, transferred to nylon membranes and hybridised with a single-locus probe YNH24 which recognises an informative region, D2S44, in the human genome.

The sizes of complementary DNA fragments binding to this probe were measured by comparing their relative mobilities to those of DNA size standards. The genotype of each individual at the D2S44 locus was determined, generating a DNA profile for each cell line. The genotype frequency of each cell line was calculated using databases containing the frequency of allele sizes identified within a sample population, at this locus, for each endonuclease. By extrapolating the databases to the level of the entire population, which is a significant assumption, the probability of a random individual having the same genotype as each cell line was determined. These values were typically less than 1/70. Due to the presence of segregating rare alleles within both families, this probability value was found to be quite low for some cell lines. As the most extreme example: 1/86,000 would have a PstI-generated phenotype identical to that of cell line 3263. Such probabilities were generated even when using a relatively conservative approach for statistical analysis, although they did vary between databases used and were a factor of ten less, in most instances. Thus the level of individual identity of each cell line within the population was established.

The profiling technique also allowed pedigree determination as the alleles at such a locus segregate in a Mendelian fashion. It was found however, that while the alleged parental alleles in family A could be traced to the children and the genetic relationship between the cell lines established; in family B, pedigree could not be confirmed. The alleged parental cell lines (mother 3257 and father 3258) appeared to have an identical genotype. As the greatest probability of this occurring was estimated to be one in 600 people (1/600), this indicated that these cell lines had probably been derived from the same donor. The conclusion was confirmed by the fact that neither of these cell lines possessed an allele present in their alleged progeny, indicating that one of these cell lines was not a parent. Sex-typing using PCR methodology was then performed in order to confirm the gender of the cell line donors under study. This confirmed the results established by probing, consolidating the conclusion that the paternal cell line in family B was in fact a female*apparently identical to the maternal cell line. Re-sourcing of the parental donor tissues helped to resolve this issue in work conducted after the Council-funded period of the project.

Further non-Council funded work has continued and the final results will be published in a journal article.

Evaluation of an innovative community based drink driving rehabilitation program

Report title: Evaluation of an Innovative Community Based Drink Driving Rehabilitation Program (PDF 5.6MB)
Grantees: Dr Mary Sheehan and Dr Victor Siskind, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, The University of Queensland; Doug Woodbury, Research and Evaluation Unit, Queensland Department of Transport and Robert Bleakley, Community Corrections, Queensland Corrective Services Commission
Criminology Research Council grant ; (10/90)

This research project undertaken with funding from the Council and the Federal Office of Road Safety aimed to determine whether a newly designed Corrective Services Commission Drink Driving Rehabilitation Program was viable as an approach to rehabilitation and whether it could be evaluated.

Background research indicated that there were approximately 25,000 convictions for drink driving annually in Queensland and a review of RBT statistics for 1990 found that 16,507 persons had a blood alcohol content of 0.05. The overwhelming majority (94.1 per cent) of these offenders received licence suspensions which were considerably longer than the mandatory suspension levels and thus were relatively more severe than any of the fines, prison sentences and community service which were to be kept at minimal levels. Prison sentences were imposed on 238 offenders during 1989-1990 and almost twice as many again were admitted for defaulting fines or community service orders.

There are major problems in the application of a classic experimental model to evaluating drink driving rehabilitation. Numbers of occasions are small, particularly if crash involvement is used as the outcome measure. Recent literature recommends more radically that drink driving should be considered a 'symptom' rather than the 'disease' and that the use of more broadly based lifestyle outcome measures such as drinking and drink driving frequency, employment status, family stability, etc. are more appropriate.

The Queensland Corrective Services Commission Drink Driving Rehabilitation Program is the only one currently available in Queensland. It was initiated in 1989 and is a 'user pays' program which involves educational segments provided by community stakeholders. It takes six and a half months to complete and aims to improve offenders' knowledge and attitudes, and to offer an alternative to extended prison sentences for multiple offenders.

The program is clearly practical and feasible. In the three years since it was proposed fifteen centres have been established involving at least 450 participants. The achievement and acceptance level involved here should not be underestimated. Each course includes participants from seven government and non-government organisations and has achieved high acceptance from magistrates. It is conducted primarily with multiple offenders who have other serious social disadvantages. A sizeable proportion of participants are over 30 years of age, poorly educated, socially disadvantaged and have already had previous prison sentences for drink driving and other offences.

In spite of its high level of acceptance it lacks a locally designated coordinator and is not based on a knowledge-attitudinal-behaviour change model. There is no collaborative training, coordination or support given to the persons delivering it. The program also needs much closer supervision of participants and clearer guidelines as to alternative strategies to deal with the small number of participants who attend the program after heavy drinking. If these problems are not rectified it may be difficult to maintain at its present level of implementation.

Because of these weaknesses in its current form it would be very difficult to justify the expense of trying to establish a formal evaluation.

Evaluation of the Hindley Street youth project (HSYP)

Report title: The Hindley Street Project Centre: An Evaluation / Karen Zola, Ken Rigby and Allan Barnes. 1992 (PDF 5.1MB)
Grantees: Dr Ken Rigby and Dr Allan Barnes, University of South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (36/90)

The Hindley Street Project Centre was founded ten years ago. It is now primarily a drop-in centre for young predominantly Aboriginal people who visit in Hindley Street, Adelaide, on Friday and Saturday evenings. Because Hindley Street is generally regarded as a dangerous environment at night time, the function of the Centre is, to a large extent, to cater for the safety needs of the users; but, in addition, it provides a generic service which includes the provision of information, referral, counselling, advocacy, health care and recreation. As such, it provides a unique service in Australia. How effectively the Centre was, in fact, operating and meeting the needs of users was the subject of this enquiry.

The evaluation employed a variety of methods of data collection. These involved: direct observations of the operation of the Centre; interviews with staff, both full-time paid and voluntary; interviews with users of the Centre (48 Aboriginal youth and six non-Aboriginal); interviews with representatives from other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth agencies; interviews with police officers working in Hindley Street; and interviews with traders in Hindley Street. From these sources a composite picture of how the Centre operated was gained and also how it was perceived to operate from a variety of sources.

As a drop-in centre the Project Centre is well patronised, with numbers varying between 30 and 100, depending in part upon the season and available attractions in Adelaide at the time. Approximately 90 per cent of the users are Aboriginal, with equal numbers of males and females, ages ranging from 12 to 26 years. The mean age for those interviewed in the study was 16 years.

Although the environment in the Centre is not entirely 'safe' (some fighting and drunkenness was reported), being there was found to be considerably 'safer' than being in the street, and was widely regarded by the bulk of those interviewed from outside the Centre (staff in other youth agencies, traders and the police) as providing, in this respect, a valuable service. The quality of the health service provided at the Centre on Friday evenings was found to be generally good, but, given the health needs of this population of users, in need of extension.

Relationships between users and staff both permanent (entirely non-Aboriginal) and part-time volunteer, were, on the whole, positive but generally not close. In providing information in a number of areas*legal, employment, accommodation, social security payments*and helping in emergency situations, the Centre is clearly performing a useful function. In general, its role is passive, rather than pro-active. For example, although promoting recreational activities, games and camps is intended, these are only minimally facilitated. It was felt that the staffing of the Centre with at least some Aboriginal people, rather than all non-Aboriginal people, could result in the social and recreational function of the Centre being strengthened.

Relationships between users and the Police were somewhat fragile, with some police officers dissatisfied with the Centre because it is seen as protecting offenders. At the same time, it was found that users were, on the whole, accepting of the role of the Police and not unduly critical.

In summary, it was found that the centre was carrying out a useful role in Adelaide particularly in providing a relatively safe environment for young Aboriginal people drawn into Adelaide at weekends and clearly 'at risk'. Although the service provided was, in some respects, passive, rather than pro-active, and also under criticism from some police officers, its overall value and need for sustained supportive funding is hard to dispute.

An exploration of confrontational homicide in Victoria

Report title: Confrontational Homicide: A Final Report to the Criminology Research Council (PDF 1.9MB)
Grantees: Assoc Prof Ken Polk, Criminology Department, The University of Melbourne and Dr David Ranson, Victorian Institute of Forensic Science
Criminology Research Council grant ; (12/90)

The report of this researh is an analysis of forms of male-on-male homicide. It is a follow-up to an earlier study which, consistent with research elsewhere, found that males not only constitute a vast majority of homicide offenders, but further that slightly over half of all homicides involve males taking the lives of other males. The purpose of the present research is to establish, if possible, the patterns which characterise these distinctively male homicides.

The data for the research are drawn from the files of the Office of the Coroner of Victoria, and include all homicides reported to the Coroner for the years 1985-1989. The files consist of an initial report of the attending police regarding the death, the brief prepared by the police for presentation at the Coroner's Inquest, the autopsy report regarding the cause of death, any relevant toxicology reports, and the report of the Inquest itself. For each of the 376 homicides reported in the five-year period, a case study was prepared which focused particularly on the dynamics of the interaction which had taken place between the victim and the offender. Just over half (51.6 per cent) of these homicides consisted of events where males were involved both as offenders and victims in the homicide.

From the analysis of the case study material, there were three major scenarios which describe these male-on-male killings. The first of these consisted of confrontational homicides, which typically began as a form of honour contest between males which then resulted in a fight, leading ultimately to the lethal violence. Such honour contests are distinctively male (only one case with these dynamics involved women), and individuals of either underclass or working-class origins (only two cases clearly involved a person of higher social class position). These events were likely to occur in open public settings, such as pubs, discos, streets and laneways, parks or reserves, or perhaps parties or barbecues. The violence was frequently played out against a backdrop of male peers, and alcohol use by either victim or offender was found in a majority of cases. This confrontation scenario accounted for roughly one in five (74 or 19.6 per cent) of all reported homicides.

The second major scenario consisted of homicides which can be seen as a form of conflict resolution. In all cases these individuals knew each other well, and in most they previously had been friends. Most commonly the parties involved were exceptionally marginal in both a social and economic sense, often having lengthy criminal histories and being unemployed. Typically a dispute would develop between victim and offender, dealing often with such issues as a debt. The fact that these individuals were often firmly enmeshed in a criminal culture resulted in their being placed in a position where they could not call upon conventional conflict resolution techniques to resolve their dispute. For such persons, violence then becomes an ultimate device for negotiating the conflict. The resulting homicides frequently have an element of rationality and planning which is not found in the confrontational homicides. There were a total of 38 such killings in the five-year period, these making up 10.1 per cent of all homicides.

The third scenario of masculine violence consisted of those homicides which occur in the course of other crime. These homicides can be viewed as resulting from the willingness of the offender to take the exceptional risks involved in engaging in criminal behaviour. Overall, there were 60 such homicides, with the most common sub-theme consisting of 'double victims' where the victim of an initial crime, such as armed robbery, became the victim of homicide as well.

Viewed theoretically, these findings help to underscore the importance of an interpretation of violence which adequately accounts for its masculine characteristics. At the same time, in these male-on-male scenarios, the class variable is equally prominent. An important question posed by these data concerns the issue not only of why some males have a proclivity toward violence, but the equally significant issue of how it is that others are constrained to avoid violence.

The attitudes towards and practice of euthanasia in South Australia

Report title: Management of Death, Dying and Euthanasia: Attitudes and Practices of Medical Practitioners and Nurses in South Australia / Dr Christine Stevens and Professor Riaz Hassan. 1992 (PDF 7.4MB)
Grantees: Prof Riaz Hassan, Department of Sociology, Flinders University, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/90)

Advances in medical knowledge and expertise have resulted in changes in the causes and timing of death in most western countries. People are now living longer and chronic, degenerative diseases which cause a gradual deterioration in health over long periods have replaced communicable diseases as the major causes of death. So too the survival rate amongst premature babies with low birth weights or those with congenital defects has improved.

The very success of medicine in treating illness means that death is postponed until old age, but people may live long periods with chronic, painful, debilitating conditions which are not terminal, or not immediately fatal. So too, while the positive benefits of advances in medical treatments have led to increased life expectancy and greater longevity, many treatments, especially those of an invasive nature or those used to treat the severely or chronically ill, also involve some element of risk, pain, and the possibility of greater or lesser permanent damage or temporary side effects. Increasingly, too, considerable medical resources are expended in prolonging life in situations where survival is transitory or accompanied by severely impaired quality of life.

The continuation of this successful and active pursuit of curing illness and preserving life may cause problems for patients suffering from terminal or grave, chronic illness. It can also cause dilemmas for medical practitioners and members of other health professions where the harm caused to patients by treatment appears to outweigh the benefits. In the future it may also pose difficulties in financing health care delivery in societies where equitable access to health care is regarded as a fundamental right irrespective of means.

The research addressed the first two of these issues, and probed whether medical practitioners and nurses were ever asked to hasten the death of their patients and the reasons such requests were made. In doing so an attempt was made to reveal if patients or their families ever wanted to halt the prolongation of life and whether this was prompted by a perception that the disadvantages of medical treatment outweighed the beneficial effects. The study revealed that it was common for medical practitioners and nurses to receive such requests from their patients.

Almost half of those surveyed had received requests to hasten death by withdrawing treatment from patients, and almost half medical practitioners had received such requests from the families of patients. A considerable minority of nurses surveyed had received requests from the families of patients. Lesser proportions of both medical practitioners and nurses had also received requests to hasten the death of patients by taking active steps. It was found that the most common reasons for requests to hasten death were persistent and irrelievable pain, terminal illness and incurable conditions.

The study also revealed that an overwhelming majority of medical practitioners and nurses believed such requests could be considered rational. The main reasons for this ascription were situations where patients suffered pain, were near death or experienced an extremely poor quality of life.

Recently there has been a shift in the balance of issues confronting medical practitioners away from simply attempting to keep patients alive, towards finding answers to the question of when to allow patients to die. The survey data on the proportions of patients and their families who request that death be hastened either by withdrawing treatment or taking active steps indicates the extent to which patients and their families wish to participate in medical treatment decision-making during the terminal stages of illness. More importantly, it suggests that a considerable proportion of patients and their families believe this can no longer be left to medical practitioners alone. Finally, the data also provides some evidence on the extent of the public perception that some members of the medical profession may persevere too long or may be over zealous in their pursuit of all treatment options.

An overwhelming majority of medical practitioners surveyed reported that they had suggested to patients that no treatment be undertaken, while a considerable majority had suggested that treatment be discontinued. That this is a recent phenomenon is indicated by the fact that much higher proportions of young medical practitioners had suggested withholding and withdrawal of treatment than those over the age of 60 or those who had been in practice more than 30 years.

The study confirmed a lack of unanimity concerning the moral, ethical and legal status of decisions to withhold or withdraw medical treatment, where the effect of these actions would be to hasten the death of a patient. The research found that there was some preparedness by medical practitioners and nurses to overlook the law and take active steps to hasten the death of their patients. Eighteen per cent of both groups had undertaken active euthanasia.

The survey revealed majority support amongst both medical practitioners and nurses for guidelines to be established to clarify the legal position of medical practitioners regarding withholding and withdrawal of medical treatment. Doctors were less interested than nurses in clarifying the legal ambiguities of decisions made in this area, and this is possibly because the current situation allows considerable personal flexibility and autonomy, with little fear of prosecution for those who wish to withdraw or withhold treatment.

Medical practitioners were divided on the question of the legalisation of active euthanasia, with considerable and almost equal minorities opposed to, or in favour of changes in the law. Nursing views were far more polarised, and a clear, although small majority of nurses were in favour of the legalisation of active euthanasia under some circumstances. The proportion who were undecided was similar for both medical practitioners and nurses.

Among those who favoured the legalisation of active euthanasia there was considerable consensus that terminal illness and intractable pain and suffering constituted circumstances in which active euthanasia could or should be legal. However, there were minority opinions that poor quality of life, mental disability and physical handicap should also be valid circumstances for active euthanasia. The diversity of opinion on these issues invites caution to ensure that in framing guidelines or legislation, current abuses which result from enthusiastic and aggressive pursuit of the aim of preserving life do not become transmuted into abuses due to lack of adequate protection of life.

Gender and sentencing in the Victorian magistrates' courts: a pilot project

Report title: Gender and Sentencing in the Victorian Magistrates' Courts: A Pilot Project (PDF 3MB)
Grantees: Bronwyn Naylor, Faculty of Law, Monash University, Victoria
Criminology Research Council grant ; (42/90)

This research was a pilot project for an examination of the significance of the gender of the defendant on sentencing by Victorian Magistrates. An observation study of this type permits the gathering and organising of information about a part of the legal system which has most impact on the community as a whole. The operation and decision-making of the Magistrates' Courts have been difficult to study, as much is undocumented. A quantitative study therefore permits analysis of the large volume of information collected by observation for patterns and themes which may suggest directions for further research and for policy development. However, there are limitations in carrying out a quantitative study of sentencing, particularly to test the effect of so complex a concept as gender.

The study of 1,301 cases observed in three Victorian Magistrates' Courts provides an important gender profile of defendants and of criminal proceedings in our lower courts. It also reveals differences in the ways in which male and female defendants experienced the criminal justice process, and were dealt with by it. These findings have a number of implications for future research and policy.

Women defendants were generally poorer than men appearing in court. They were more likely to be financially dependent, either on another person or on the State, and to have child-care responsibilities. They were more likely to be a first offender, acting alone, and charged with an economic crime*against property or public order (usually prostitution)*or a traffic offence. They were very unlikely to be charged with an offence involving personal violence. They tended to be somewhat less involved in the court proceedings than did men; more women than men failed to appear at all, and fewer women actively participated in the hearing. The implications of these findings are discussed further below. Women's pleas in mitigation of sentence were more likely than men's to emphasise first offender status, personal factors and family responsibilities. Women on the whole were more likely to obtain a bond than a man, less likely to be fined, and if fined, tended to receive a lower fine.

Nonetheless, preliminary multivariate analysis suggests that gender per se has little influence on sentencing, except in relation to the size of fine. After controlling for measures of offence seriousness and prior record, gender ceased to have any relation to the likelihood of bonds and loss of licence (in traffic cases) and to bonds and custodial sentences (in traditional crime cases). But even after controlling for these factors, women received lighter fines for both traffic and traditional crime cases.

Further research on the relevance of gender to sentencing should include examining magistrates' understandings of their role, of the causes of crime in men and in women, and of their philosophies of punishment. Differences between magistrates need to be more fully examined, but it is also important to look at the impact on magistrates of the factors being recorded, and their opinions on the matters being presented to them. Research should also be directed to analysing the court processes, from the decision to charge and the choice of charge laid, to the presentation of the plea in mitigation as a form of 'packaging' the defendant.

Social and psychological moderators of the effectiveness of employment and training for repeat juvenile offenders

Report title: Social and Psychological Moderators of the Effectiveness of Employment and Training for Repeat Juvenile Offenders / Ms Peta Odgers (PDF 578kB)
Grantees: Dr Philip Ullah, formerly of the Department of Psychology, The University of Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (2/90)

This report describes an evaluation of the effectiveness of the WorksYde employment and training program in reducing the criminal behaviour, improving the work attitudes and increasing the levels of psychological health among the participants. The primary aims of this project were to assess the effects of the program and to identify those variables that influence the relationship between participation in the program and a reduction in criminal behaviour.

Interviews were conducted with male juvenile delinquents who were involved in the WorksYde program and who therefore would, as required, be aged between 14 and 18 years with at least six court sanctions. A longitudinal design was utilised in which an attempt was made to interview subjects twice with approximately three to six months between interviews. Subjects were interviewed while they were incarcerated (Longmore Remand, Longmore Training or Riverbank), were on the Community Based Offenders Program (CBOP), or were unemployed or employed. Female subjects were omitted from the study due to circumstances beyond the control of the current project.

Subjects were individually interviewed using a structured interview schedule. This technique was used rather than group testing as it was found to be the most reliable method by which to obtain data from this subject population. The interviews were used to discover information about the subjects' general labour market attitudes, levels of general psychological well-being, social support network, and criminal activities.

The results suggested that the WorksYde program had been generally successful. Clients who had obtained employment engaged in more constructive leisure and other positive activities, while their counterparts who had not found employment showed little change in their patterns of activity.

Program evaluation at the Barwon prison

Report title: Program Evaluation at Barwon Prison (1991-1992) (PDF 3.2MB)
Grantees: Dr Robert Semmens, Institute of Education, The University of Melbourne
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/90)

During 1991-1992 a program evaluation was conducted at Barwon security prison near Geelong in Victoria. The study aimed to establish whether prisoners who participated in articulated on-the-job off-the-job training programs offering continuity of training in prison and after release were more likely to gain post-release employment and less likely to re-offend than prisoners who participated in non-credentialing programs.

Prisoners were interviewed six months prior to release in relation to past employment, past education level and a range of personal identifying data such as age, nationality and marital status. This first interview also sought details of their current sentence and program participation.

At a second interview, just before release, prisoners were asked to review their program participation at Barwon and their future employment and training prospects.

Six months after release contact was made with community based corrections offices and police records to gain information on post-release employment, training and offending records.

Due to the limited time-scale for the evaluation only 46 men and seven women could be included in the evaluation project. However, some trends in data were apparent. First, most of the identifying data appeared to have no significant outcome in terms of post-release employment or recidivism, except for previous imprisonment experience. The six participants who had no previous prison experience and who had personal contacts willing to provide employment, were the only participants who gained full-time employment. Four of these six had participated in credentialing programs at Barwon but only one continued his training post-release and none of them gained employment in the area of training at Barwon.

No prisoner who gained full-time post-release employment had any further contact with the criminal justice system in the first six months after release. On the other hand there was a trend towards higher recidivism amongst participants who had 'shopped around' amongst available non-credentialing activities whilst in prison, whereas those who enrolled in courses and pursued them for 'self-improvement', were less likely to be in further trouble with police after release.

These tentative conclusions are supported by a larger study by the researcher at Malmsbury Youth Training Centre (completed in 1986) in which it was found that 17 to 21-year-old trainees who achieved higher levels of schooling and had never been in a youth training centre before were more likely to gain post-release employment, and with the assistance of a relative or previous employer.

There are two recommendations for future program development coming out of the Malmsbury and Barwon data:

These recommendations also apply to the small number of women who participated in the evaluation. All were repeated offenders, none were able to participate in a credentialed training program, and six months after release only one was not in further trouble.

It is noted that the Office of Corrections Industry Training Plan (1993) places great emphasis on the first recommendation. The second recommendation may require new initiatives.

Women in prison

Report title: Women in Prison
Grantees: Women and Girls in Custody. Subcommittee of NSW Prisons Coalition, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (39/91)

The outcome of this research is a book Prisons and Women by Blanche Hampton and published by New South Wales University Press (1993).

The project examined the New South Wales prison system, from arrest to post-release, as it related to women prisoners between 1986 and 1991. Data was obtained from various sources including the Women in Prison Task Force Report 1984-85 and their recommendations, the New South Wales Department of Corrective Services, and most importantly from women who were imprisoned during this period. It had been intended to examine print media notions of female imprisonment but the paucity of information available rendered this a futile exercise.

Generally speaking, female imprisonment is a 'poor cousin' of male imprisonment, if such a thing can be said to be possible. The sentencing options, rules and regulations and classification system were devised with male prisoners in mind and have been adapted little or not at all to the vastly different situation, needs and possible outcomes of female incarceration. While a decade ago this could have been said to be the result of oversight, even though the findings of the Nagle report in 1976 pointed to major problems in the women's prisons, the appearance of three major reports on issues of female imprisonment over that decade, each reinforcing the findings and recommendations of its predecessors, indicates entrenched negative attitudes on the part of Corrective Services to concepts of reform.

There are four main areas of difficulty with the New South Wales prison system, all of which apply with varying degrees to both female and male imprisonment: overcrowding; lack of accountability; attitudes of custodial staff; and post-release. Where there is concern displayed at the policy-making level of the Corrective Services hierarchy for any of the above or other issues, a combination of the first three makes the implementation of policy initiatives a difficult if not impossible task.

The book commences with a general overview and then goes on to deal with arrest and interrogation, rites of passage, and the daily grind. These sections are followed by chapters on legal and welfare, health, family visits, custodial officers, inmates, and post-release. The final chapter 'If I Had the Job ...', suggests 29 recommendations for consideration.

An estimation of the number of heroin users in the ACT

Report title: An Estimation of the Number of Heroin Users in the ACT (PDF 2MB)
Grantees: Dr Gabriele Bammer, National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra
Criminology Research Council grant ; (7/92)

The report of this project is entitled 'Estimating the Numbers of Heroin Users in the ACT', Feasibility Research into the Controlled Availability of Opioids Stage 2, Working Paper Number 1, by Ann Larson.

An accurate estimate of the numbers of heroin users in the ACT is essential for determining the feasibility of a trial to provide opioids to dependent users in a controlled manner. Not only does it indicate whether or not the extent of the problems warrants a trial, but it is also vital for establishing the feasibility of proposed trial evaluation techniques.

The ACT Drug Indicators Project data for 1988 and 1989 were examined using list-matching techniques (also known as capture-recapture and indicator/dilution). This gave an estimate of around 1000 people who see their heroin use as a 'problem', with a standard deviation of around 200. This is consistent with the 'best' estimates derived using other, more refined techniques.

Coping and conflict resolution skills of young offenders

Report title: Conflict Resolution and Causal Attribution in Adolescent Offenders (PDF 743kB)
Grantees: Assoc Prof Jeffrey Bailey and Kathleen Ellerman, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/92)

This study investigated the preferred conflict resolution strategies and causal attributions of adolescent males in detention and on probation. Fifty-eight males in detention (age range 15 to 18) and 38 males on probation (age range 17 to 21) were interviewed. Using 13 carefully constructed vignettes of typical conflict situations, the respondents were asked to choose their preferred method of solving the conflict from a choice of six methods, three of which were passive and three aggressive. They were also asked to attribute the cause of one conflict incident and to indicate their interest in learning how to communicate more effectively in conflict situations.

This study has been valuable in providing a methodology to examine the psychological make-up of offenders and it has yielded useful insights into how young offenders view the world. It is clear that they have a mixed approach to solving conflict, with immediate resort to physical strategies with peers, but with more passive approaches to authority figures and, particularly to parents. In terms of how they deal with conflict, there are few noticeable differences between youth in detention and youth on probation. Certainly, the older group appeared to be more willing to compromise but the preferred choices for resolving arguments are still quite aggressive and socially maladaptive.

In terms of attributing causes to incidents, both populations are virtually identical. They express a moderate level of acceptance of the problem but some data suggest that these youth feel they have little control over events. There is a definite need to follow this conclusion through, particularly to determine whether, through courses and counselling, it is possible to change this attitude.

The needs analysis showed that all these offenders are keen to learn how to cope with their emotions and how to communicate with others in ways which will enhance acceptance and mutual respect.

The lesson for the research team is that these offenders and probationers are very similar in many ways. The effect of detention does not seem to have changed the basic way they see life, particularly how they view conflict situations. Even though offenders do not accept blame readily and feel they cannot control events in their lives, they are keen to change and improve. Another continuing problem is the influence of inappropriate methods of solving conflict, accurately assessing blame and knowing how to communicate effectively on the offenders' success in gaining and maintaining employment. It is likely that their communicative and social skills will continue to cause problems for them in vocational opportunities.

There is a serious concern with the literacy of young offenders. While this problem is recognised by most juvenile justice researchers, and while it was not the concern of this study, it is important to understand the extent of literacy problems and the impact of low levels of literacy on the self-concept and employability of offenders. If they lack the basic skills required to function effectively in the mainstream of society, it is clear that young offenders will always be marginalised. marginalisation engenders a commitment to values which are inimical to full acceptance by society and which will ensure that these offenders maintain patterns of behaviour which will ultimately cause them to re-offend.

This study lends encouragement to the corrective system to take advantage of the opportunity to improve the communicative and social capacities of offending youth. Such programs, if effectively implemented, should mean that these youth will reduce their current socially unacceptable ways of dealing with conflict. The likelihood is, of course, that maintenance of inappropriate communicative and social behaviour will bring these youth to the attention of the justice system repeatedly. If these premises are correct, the continuing lack of communicative facility and social skills may prove to be decisive factors in recidivism in young Australian males.

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