NSW Attorney General's Department: evaluation of circle sentencing program report


Circle sentencing commenced in New South Wales in February 2002 in Nowra Local Court. Since then the program has been expanded to Armidale, Bourke, Brewarrina, Dubbo, Kempsey, Lismore, Mount Druitt and Walgett Local Courts. As of September 2007, about 230 Aboriginal offenders had participated in a circle sentence. Circle sentencing allows for input from the victim and offender, and directly involves Aboriginal people in the sentencing, with the goal of empowering Aboriginal communities through their involvement. It is an alternative sentencing tool for NSW Magistrates and promotes the sharing of responsibility between the community and the criminal justice system. Circle sentencing attempts to address the causes of criminal behaviour and to develop solutions to issues raised, and it also actively involves the community in solving its own problems. In 2007, the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) conducted an evaluation of the circle sentencing program. The aim of this evaluation was to review circle sentencing to: assess whether the program is achieving the stated objectives; asses the program’s effectiveness in reducing reoffending; identify any unintended positive or adverse effects of the approach; identify any factors influencing acceptance and non-acceptance within local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities; and suggest ways to improve the effectiveness and cost-efficiency of the program. The evaluation methodology included a comprehensive qualitative approach, the analysis of existing data on circle sentencing offenders and Local Court data, and a literature review of Australian trends with regard to Indigenous sentencing programs and existing evaluations. Face-to-face in-depth interviews and group discussions were also conducted with stakeholders in each location. This report presents the results of the evaluation. (Executive summary, edited.)

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