Arresting incarceration

Pathways out of Indigenous imprisonment

book cover with orange and green stripes with white and black text


Availability: Feb 2014

2014, pb, 216x140mm, 208pp, b&w photos
RRP $39.95 incl. GST
ISBN 9781922059550

| Contents | Sample Chapter | Index | Review

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This is a provocative and courageous book by a well-respected criminologist, offering a critique of the over- representation of Indigenous people in custody and of the programs and approaches that are attempting to ameliorate the situation…All Australians owe it to Indigenous Australians to reduce these rates of incarceration.-- Dr Maggie Brady, CAEPR, ANU

Rates of Indigenous imprisonment have soared despite sweeping reforms by the Keating government following the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. What has gone wrong?

Don Weatherburn is the Director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. He was awarded a Public Service Medal in January 1998 and made a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2006. Dr Weatherburn is the author of two books and more than 180 articles, book chapters and reports on crime and criminal justice.


[Weatherburn] was frustrated at the failure to reduce Aboriginal deaths in custody after the royal commission into the issue, angry that the subject had disappeared from the news even as rates of Aboriginal imprisonment per head of population continued to rise and disappointed with the scholarly debate about its causes.

‘People had started out with this narrative about injustice,’ he says, ‘and it’s one of those cases when the premises of the argument are true but the conclusion is wrong. Yes, there was injustice but that’s not the reason why we have Aboriginal over-representation in prisons, not in the main.’
He says it is clear that violence in Aboriginal communities is rife and the principal victims are Aborigines.

Weatherburn’s solutions include restrictions on alcohol and drug-reduction strategies involving more arrests at street-dealer level. Better school performance, a focus on child abuse and neglect, and more jobs are also needed, he says. But his focus is on ‘particularly alcohol and particularly mothers’, who tend to end up doing most of the child-rearing.’

  • Excerpt from ‘Bringing reality to rhetoric on crime’, Mark Dapin interviewing author Don Weatherburn about Arresting incarceration, published by Aboriginal Studies Press, February 2014, News Review, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 2014.