What is the future of prison sentences in Australia?

3 Aug 2018

Racial inequality, poverty and incarceration rates in the United States and Australia were the focus of a workshop led by a renowned Harvard University sociologist at The University of Queensland this week.

The Futures of Sentencing and Incarceration, held from 30 July to 1 August, brought together scholars from UQ’s TC Beirne School of Law, Columbia University, Yale University, Boston University and the University of New South Wales as well as government, legal and community representatives.

Professor Bruce Western, Distinguished Visiting Research Professor at UQ and Co-Director of Columbia University’s Justice Lab, said after a period of 40 years growth in US prison populations, criminal justice reform was producing small reductions in the national incarceration rate.

“Australian incarceration rates, although significantly lower than in the United States, are rising,” he said.

“New prison construction and tougher sentencing are being proposed by Australian policymakers.

“Could Australia move down the American path? Could Americans learn from the Australian experience?

“These questions are particularly ripe at the current time and will be leading topics for the workshop.”

The workshop, led by Professor Western and Professor Vincent Schiraldi, Co-Director of Justice Lab, explored the possibility of a joint project to engaging Australian policy makers and community representatives.

Professor Western’s research looks at how incarceration reflects, and contributes to, racial inequality and economic disadvantage in America.

Professor Schiraldi is a leading criminal justice reform in the United States, having run juvenile corrections in Washington DC and probation in New York City.

Other TC Beirne School of Law researchers involved in the workshop include Dr Rebecca Wallis, Professor Heather Douglas, Dr Enshen Li and Professor Simon Bronitt.

Contact: Professor Bruce Western, +61 7 3365 9784, b.western@uq.edu.au or Dr Rebecca Wallis, r.wallis1@uq.edu.au