Indigeneity and the Judicial Decision to Imprison: A Study of Western Australia's Higher Courts


Internationally, sentencing research has largely neglected the impact of Indigeneity on sentencing outcomes. Using data from Western Australia’s higher courts for the years 2003-05, we investigate the direct and interactive effects of Indigenous status on the judicial decision to imprison. Unlike prior research on race/ethnicity in which minority offenders are often found to be more harshly treated by sentencing courts, we find that Indigenous status has no direct effect on the decision to imprison, after adjusting for other sentencing factors (especially past and current criminality). However, there are sub-group differences: Indigenous males are more likely to receive a prison sentence compared to non-Indigenous females. We draw on the focal concerns perspective of judicial decision making in interpreting our findings.

Copyright Information

All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: