Sentencers' attitudes toward women in the criminal justice system: explanations for sentencing treatment disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women

Velazquez, Marisela (2017) Sentencers' attitudes toward women in the criminal justice system: explanations for sentencing treatment disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Despite the recommendations made by the Royal Commission, a consistent pattern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is that they continue to be overrepresented across police, court, and prison jurisdictions. When the situation turns to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, while they make up for only 3% of the total Australian population, they are over-represented across the criminal justice system compared to non-Indigenous women. In Queensland, despite fluctuations in the past 8 years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are at least twice as likely to go before the higher courts than non-Indigenous women.

This thesis is about the structures that affect women's experience of the sentencing processes in the higher courts in North Queensland the explanations judges give for the different sentencing treatment of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women sentenced in the higher courts. Insight about the judiciary is crucial to the present research project given their role can legitimise the overzealous racially motivated policing and their sentencing decisions can directly contribute to the numbers of Indigenous women in prison. Another aim of this thesis is to explore the intersections of Indigeneity and gender within the structures of the higher courts.

Using a triangulated approach of interviews with judges, observations of court rooms, and sentencing transcripts, this particular issue of women's sentencing treatment disparities in the higher courts is examined through the lens of Critical Race Theory and feminism. Applicability of Critical Race Theory pays attention to concepts related to the impacts of colonisation in contemporary structures as well as the ways the higher courts as an institution perpetuates the production and ongoing marginalisation of Indigenous women, and Indigenous peoples as a group. With feminism, in contrast to traditional criminology which studies crime and criminal justice, I narrate women's experiences through a feminist criminology lens which addresses crime and criminal justice issues relevant to women.

The thesis concludes that despite some examples of sympathy toward Indigenous women, the masked prejudice of some judges are also drawn out to support forms of new racism, which in turn, emphasizes structural racism in the higher courts. Findings also show that Indigeneity and gender intersect with structures of the higher courts to fundamentally impact the experience of Indigenous women and this complexity accounts for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women's different experiences in the higher courts. This research proposes to look at the broader context of the criminal justice system given the systemic racism in the higher courts cannot be seen in isolation from police and prison jurisdictions.

Item ID: 54274
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Indigenous women, courts, sentencing, feminism, Aboriginal women, North Queensland, judiciary, racism, critical race theory, feminist criminology
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2018 23:33
FoR Codes: 22 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 2203 Philosophy > 220306 Feminist Theory @ 30%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1602 Criminology > 160203 Courts and Sentencing @ 40%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169902 Studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Society @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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