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CRC funded reports

1998-1999

The Council received reports from 7 completed research projects during the year 1998-99. 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. Evaluation of the introduction of Tasmanian firearm control legislation
  2. The relationship between childhood aggression and early adolescent aggressive and delinquent behaviours
  3. Risk assessment models in sentencing and corrections
  4. Venue observations study
  5. Evaluation of the Qld Security Providers Act 1993
  6. Compare and assess the benefits of treatment programs for male child sexual offenders in correctional services against the costs of implementing such programs
  7. Does the spatial clustering of homes in which child abuse occurs reflect the operation of micro-social environments?

Evaluation of the introduction of Tasmanian firearm control legislation

Report title: Evaluation of the Introduction of Tasmanian Firearm Control Legislation (PDF 2.5MB)
Grantees: Prof Katherine Warner and Roland Browne, Faculty of Law, The University of Tasmania, Tasmania
Criminology Research Council grant ; (28/91)

The Guns Act 1991 introduced licensing for all firearms in Tasmania. It aimed to reduce deaths from suicide, to reduce accidents caused by guns and to reduce the level of violence in the community. This study attempted to evaluate these aims by looking at the impact of the Act on suicide, homicide, accidental gun deaths and injuries and the use of firearms in crime.

The relationship between childhood aggression and early adolescent aggressive and delinquent behaviours

Report title: From Childhood Aggression to Delinquency: Causal Pathways (PDF 5.7MB)
Grantees: Dr W Bor, Dr J Najman, Dr M O'Callaghan and Dr G Williams, University of Queensland, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/95-6)

In the context of substantial changes in family types and even family quality over recent times, this study is concerned with the extent to which family type and quality impacts on child behaviour problems. A sample of 8556 pregnant women were enrolled in a longitudinal prospective study. Details of changes in family type and family quality (addressed using Spanier dyadic adjustment scale) were used to predict three second order syndromes developed from the Child Behaviour Check List and administered to the mothers when the child was 5 years of age.

Mothers who experience no partner changes (married and single) report their children to have the lowest rates of child behaviour problems for the three syndromes used in this study. In addition mothers who more often describe their relationship with their partner as poor also report their children to have the highest rate of behaviour problems across all three syndromes. Adjustment for possible confounders does not alter these findings. Both changes of partner and dyadic conflict appear to lead to child behaviour problems, with the latter factor appearing to have a greater impact than the former. Mothers who experience no partner changes and no conflict appear to have children with the lowest behaviour problems.

Risk assessment models in sentencing and corrections

Report title: Risk Assessment in Sentencing and Corrections (PDF 5.1MB)
Grantees: Frank Morgan, Crime Research Centre, University of Western Australia, Western Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (22/95-6)

The research explores the concept of risk as it relates to the treatment of offenders at various points in the criminal justice system. The inquiry begins with an exploration of the notion of risk in modern societies. It is clear that risk can be regarded as a core organising concept in late the 20th century world. 'Risk society' is concerned with the future, with control and with safety and the significance of risk derives from these preoccupations, not from any objective increase in the hazards and dangers to its citizens. In criminological settings risk has come much closer to centre-stage. Indeed, some writers, such as Feeley and Simon, see 'actuarial justice' as proceeding inexorably and transforming older forms of justice and their concepts. Others such as Garland argue that the field of crime control manifests an uneven and often incoherent mix of policies and practices where the influence of 'actuarial justice' competes not only with older paradigms of proportionality and rehabilitation, but with a morally-charged 'expressive punitiveness' which has considerable political influence.

Risk is then examined in its more specific contexts of sentencing and parole decision-making. It is immediately evident that there are differences in approach to risk at the various points in the criminal justice process. For example, notions of 'risk' and 'dangerousness' have had, and continue to have, a limited but growing role in the legislation governing sentencing whereas Australian courts of appeal have generally reaffirmed the centrality of principles of 'proportionality' or 'just deserts' in sentencing practice particularly as they relate to adult offenders. The research illustrates this through a detailed analysis of recent Western Australian legislation. It is evident that risk may be defined in different ways within the same Act and that at other times it dealt with ambiguously or inconsistently. In the context of individual sentencing decisions these different meanings of risk can conflict with each other and with other principles such as proportionality.

The study then draws on the results of empirical research on risk assessment in Western Australia. It relates these results to the 'risk' literature which has come to dominate discussions of correctional supervision and treatment programs in North America and have increasingly influenced correctional administrators in Australia and the United Kingdom. The analysis examines risk in the context of offender supervision. A key question addressed in this analysis concerns the utility of risk assessment in providing guidance about the treatment of supervised offenders and also in the provision of pre-sentence reports. It is clear that there are some tensions between considerations of risk and other principles of 'treatment'.

One of the major outcomes of the study is its concrete demonstration of the need for 'risk' to be specified carefully in specific contexts. Risk is too easily discussed in a singular way, as if its application is self-explanatory. Yet, a useful risk assessment requires a precise specification of the nature of the risk in question, the time frame of the assessment, and some specification of those considered to be at risk.

Venue observations study

Report title: An Evaluation of the Local Government Safety Action Projects in Cairns, Townsville and Mackay (PDF 6MB)
Grantees: Prof Ross Homel and Dr Marge Hauritz, Griffith University, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (25/95-6)

The aims of the report are to sketch the theoretical basis of a series of safety action projects in three diverse North Queensland cities (Cairns, Townsville and Mackay), and to report some results. These projects, which aimed to improve the safety of licensed environments in the central city entertainment areas, are replications of the safety action model developed in Surfers Paradise.

Key features of the approach include creating a steering committee and community forum; forming task groups to address safety of public spaces, management of venues, and security and policing; encouraging venue managers to introduce a Code of Practice; and regulating managers through informal community processes as well as formal enforcement. The model is based on: prior experience with community interventions; the theory of situational crime prevention; and regulatory theory.

The results are based on police data and on unobtrusive direct observations by patron-observers of aggression, drinking, and serving practices in licensed venues in the three cities in September 1994 and October 1996. The interventions took place in each city during 1995 and early 1996. From the observational data, there was a decline of 56.5% in all aggressive and violent incidents, and a decline of at least 75% in physical assaults, although conclusions concerning direct causality cannot be drawn. These declines, which did not differ significantly between cities, coincided with reductions in the levels of perceived "permissiveness" in venues, increases in sociability, cheerfulness and friendliness, and a range of significant improvements in host responsibility practices and a marked decline in levels of male drunkenness. Patronage (and crowding) increased and prices stayed the same, suggesting no decline in levels of profitability.

Police data for Cairns and Townsville, but not Mackay, showed reductions in many types of street offences corresponding to the periods when the project officer was active or the Code of Practice was implemented, but there are difficulties in interpreting the police data (especially in Townsville). There are also good reasons for not expecting a close correlation between police data on street offences and observations of behaviours within venues, since many incidents within venues are not reported or recorded. Overall, the police data for Cairns and Townsville, but not Mackay, are consistent with the reductions in aggression observed within venues.

Assuming some causal impact of the interventions, identification of "critical" components is problematic, one conclusion being that there are many paths to the same destination. However, whatever intervention techniques are employed, a reduction in male drunkenness seems important to reduce physical violence.

Evaluation of the Qld Security Providers Act 1993

Report title: Evaluation of the Qld Security Providers Act 1993 (PDF 3.5MB)
Grantees: Dr Timothy Prenzler, Dr Hennessey Hayes and Dr Richard Wortley, Griffith University, Queensland
Criminology Research Council grant ; (4/96-7)

A survey of a large sample of security managers revealed scepticism about the success of the Queensland Security Providers Act in reducing misconduct in the security industry. Respondents felt the licensing system was too restricted and enforcement was too weak to professionalise the industry to the desired standard; although there was some support for improved entry-level competency standards as a result of minimum training requirements. There was strong support for a range of reform measures. Respondents wanted comprehensive licensing of all industry sectors linked to a national system, improved training and assessment, frequent criminal history checks on licensees, more vigorous compliance monitoring, and compulsory insurance and monitoring of firms for award payments. National co-ordination of the states and territories and the security industry is needed to achieve these goals.

Compare and assess the benefits of treatment programs for male child sexual offenders in correctional services against the costs of implementing such programs

Report title: A cost-benefit analysis of child sex-offender treatment programs for male offenders in correctional services (PDF 5.9MB)
Grantees: Prof Freda Briggs, Dr Martin Shanahan, Robyn Nayda and Don Donato, University of South Australia, South Australia
Criminology Research Council grant ; (23/96-7)

This paper reports on a cost-benefit analysis of child sex offender treatment programs for male offenders in correctional services. This study provides an overview of child sex abuse issues and provides a description of cognitive therapy treatment programs in several countries and around Australia. It then discusses the methodological and practical issues involved with the economic analysis of offender treatment programs and child sexual abuse as well as presenting findings based on South Australian data. A comprehensive list of the effects of child sexual abuse is outlined and there is a discussion of the methodological difficulties in attributing values to these. Despite these difficulties, overall estimates of the cost of programs and the benefits derived from lowering recidivism are reported, together with a sensitivity analysis of the results. The magnitude of the problem of child sexual abuse generally and offences by recidivists in particular, suggest the range of potential economic costs from child sexual abuse are substantial and the economic benefits to be achieved from appropriate and effective treatment programs high. Given the application of recent economic techniques to measure the intangible costs of child sex abuse and the methodological and informational problems encountered, the study can be considered a major first step towards a comprehensive economic analysis of in-prison child sex offender treatment programs that also provides a framework for future research efforts.

Does the spatial clustering of homes in which child abuse occurs reflect the operation of micro-social environments?

Report title: The Spatial Clustering of Child Maltreatment: Are Micro-social Environments Involved? (PDF 2.2MB)
Grantees: Prof Tony Vinson, Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre, New South Wales
Criminology Research Council grant ; (24/97-8)

Following an earlier study of neighbourhoods and child abuse, subsequent mapping of confirmed cases of abuse in the study area revealed that they were spatially clustered. Rather than work on the traditional collectors' district (CD) as the unit of study, the data from the earlier project, which had been analysed by CDs, was re-analysed according to whether or not respondents lived within the identified clusters areas. This re-analysis yielded significantly different results from the earlier investigation. Cluster area residents were significantly more likely to entertain negative perceptions of their neighbourhood, than residents not in the clusters. They were more likely to feel they did not belong, to want to move out given the opportunity, to not value association with others in their neighbourhood and to view the locality as a poor place to raise children.

In an additional small study human service practitioners in the area accurately identified the cluster areas and the micro-social environments existing within them. This may indicate that, in working to prevent child abuse, directing scarce resources at larger aggregations of families may be less efficient than working within a small number of identified street blocks.

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