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Domestic Violence Prevention: Online Services for Prisoners

 

1.0 domestic violence prevalence and issues

Dealing with domestic violence offenders is a contentious issue. This issue is becoming increasingly important with the prevalence of domestic violence offences increasing at an alarming rate. BOCSAR elucidates that the rate of domestic violence remains stubbornly high despite the falling crime rates in NSW and across Australia. Over the last five years, domestic violence related assaults reported to NSW police have increased from approximately 26,000 incidents to almost 30,000 incidents each year; that is, a 2.0% increase over this five-year period.[1] In NSW alone, there is one domestic violence related homicide every two weeks. NSW police attend almost thirty thousand domestic violence cases each year.[2] The Baird government has addressed the seriousness of this matter by establishing the reduction of domestic violence as part of its priorities to make NSW a better place to live,[3] and has also created specialist task forces assigned to domestic violence and a NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.[4]

Domestic violence not only breaches the fundamental rights of security and personal integrity, but it is also an attack against the community. Whilst it can be agreed that domestic violence offences need to be treated seriously, the primary focus of this paper is the need for a greater emphasis on rehabilitation. The fact that violence is directed against an intimate partner or family member does not justify differential or softer treatment than other violent offences. As with all offences, simply putting the offender into a cell and disposing of the key is not an adequate solution to the problem. What is essential is that rehabilitative programs and services are available in order to address the roots of these negative behaviours, which will encourage change to occur.

With the increasing rate of reported domestic violence offences, perpetrators of these offences are among the most represented groups within Australian correctional services. Domestic violence-related serious assault offenders are significantly more likely than non-domestic violence offenders to be sentenced to imprisonment.[5] Between 2009-14, almost 1,900 people were sentenced to imprisonment as the principal penalty for domestic violence-related serious assaults, which accounted for 17% of those offenders. The most commonly imposed penalty was a bond, with or without supervision (49% of offenders).[6] The average number of prison days served for domestic violence-related serious assault was 370 days.[7] Recent studies have shown that short prison sentences (under twelve months) are no more effective in deterring criminals from re-offending than suspended sentences.[8]

Of all individuals imprisoned for domestic violence-related offences in the period 2008-09, 802 were guilty of breaching an Apprehended Violence Order (66%), 611 of assault occasioning actual bodily harm (50%), 530 of common assault (43%), and 156 guilty of stalking or intimidation with intent to cause fear (12%).[9] Factors associated with greater likelihood of imprisonment for domestic violence-related assaults include the seriousness of the offence, being male (2.85 times more likely than female) or of indigenous descent (1.46 times more likely than non-indigenous), and entering a not guilty plea (1.31 times more likely than a guilty plea).[10]

 


[1]Neil Donnelley and Suzanne Poynton, Prison penalties for serious domestic and non-domestic assault (2015) 110, NSW Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics Bureau Brief: Crime and Justice Statistics 1, 1.<http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/BB/Report-2015-Prison-penalties-for-serious-domestic-and-non-domestic-assault-bb110.pdf>.

[2]Neil Donnelley and Suzanne Poynton, Prison penalties for serious domestic and non-domestic assault (2015) 110, NSW Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics Bureau Brief: Crime and Justice Statistics 1, 1.<http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/BB/Report-2015-Prison-penalties-for-serious-domestic-and-non-domestic-assault-bb110.pdf>.

[3] NSW Government, Premier’s priorities in action (2016). <https://www.nsw.gov.au/premiers-priorities>.  

[4]Partridge, E. (2015). Baird government's $60m package targets domestic violence. Retrieved October 17, 2016, <http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/specialist-police-squads-target-domestic-violence-offenders-20151012-gk7h0q.html>.

[5]Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 6.

[7]Ibid, 1.

[8] Judy Trevena and Suzanne Poynton, ‘Does a prison sentence affect future domestic violence reoffending?’ (2016) Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 190 1, 1. <http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/CJB/Report-2016-Does-a-prison-sentence-affect-future-domestic-violence-reoffending-cjb190.pdf>.

[9] Clare Ringwald and Jacqueline Fitzgerald, ‘Factors which influence the sentencing of domestic violence offenders’ (2010) 48, NSW Bureau of Crime Research Statistics Bureau Brief: Crime and Justice Statistics 1, 4-5 <http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/BB/bb48.pdf >.

[10] Ibid, 8.

1.1 how prevalent is DOMEStic violence in the general community? 

In 2012, an estimated 132,500 Australian women (1.5% of all adult women) and 51,800 Australian men (0.6% of all adult men) reported experiencing partner violence in the previous 12 months.[1] These estimates are much higher when lifetime abuse is considered, with 1.5 million Australian women (16.9% of all adult women) and 450,000 Australian men (5.3% of all adult men) having reported experiencing violence from a partner (since the age of 15).

Additionally, in the four years between April 2010 and March 2014, 136 people were murdered and 43,000 people were assaulted in domestic violence incidents in NSW[2] However, as domestic violence is largely underreported, this number reflects only a small portion of the practical reality. It is believed that approximately 40% of all homicides in NSW are domestic violence related, with female homicide victims 2.5 times more likely than male victims to be killed by someone with whom they have an intimate relationship.[3]

 


[1]Neil Donnelly & Suzanne Poynton Prison penalties for serious domestic and non-domestic assault (2015) 110, NSW Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics Bureau Brief: Crime and Justice Statistics 1, 1. Retrieved from <http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/BB/Report-2015-Prison-penalties-for-serious-domestic-and-non-domestic-assault-bb110.pdf>.

[2] State Library of NSW ‘Prevalence of Domestic Violence’, (2015) <http://www.legalanswers.sl.nsw.gov.au/guides/hot_topics/domestic_violence/overview/prevalence.html>.

[3]Ibid.

1.2 the impacts of domestic violence on children

Women are not the only victims of domestic violence; children and young people are often deeply affected by exposure to incidents of domestic violence. Exposure to domestic violence involves witnessing the violence, helping to clean up the resulting property damage, or being present whilst police or ambulances attend. It is estimated that the children of over one-third (approximately 34%) of women who experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner bore witness to the violence to some degree.[1] A national survey of 5,000 young people aged 12-20 years found out that 23% of the participants had witnessed physical domestic violence against their mothers.[2] These statistics are extremely alarming due to the detrimental mental consequences to these children and also, due to the cyclic nature of domestic violence. That is, exposure to domestic violence by children in their formative years leads to a higher susceptibility of replicating these behaviours as an adult.

 


[1]Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

1.3 profile of offenders

It is accepted that the majority of domestic violence perpetrators are male. In 2010, police records highlighted that 57,542 males (70% of all offenders) were recorded as having committed domestic violence offences.[1] Indigenous Australians are more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be incarcerated for domestic violence offences (as is common with most of the criminal offences). This emphasises the need for effective rehabilitative programs that are culturally sensitive. The table below demonstrates the disparity in incarceration numbers for domestic violence offences between indigenous and non-indigenous offenders.

Interaction between Indigenous people and DV status for average length of total imprisonment n= 3596[2]

Category

Number

Mean imprisonment length (days)

Non-Indigenous/unknown, Non-DV

1252

356.9

Non-Indigenous/unknown, DV

1156

325.6

Indigenous, Non-DV

505

381.6

Indigenous, DV

683

399.4




[1] NSW Police Force, Overview of Recent Family Violence Research Findings, One In Three, (2011) <http://www.oneinthree.com.au/overview/>.

[2]Neil Donnelley and Suzanne Poynton, Prison penalties for serious domestic and non-domestic assault (2015) 110, NSW Bureau of Crime Research and Statistics Bureau Brief: Crime and Justice Statistics 1, 1.<http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Documents/BB/Report-2015-Prison-penalties-for-serious-domestic-and-non-domestic-assault-bb110.pdf>.

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