Looking behind the increase in custodial remand populations

Brown, David (2013) Looking behind the increase in custodial remand populations. International Journal of Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 2(2), pp. 80-99.

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Numbers, rates and proportions of those remanded in custody have increased significantly in recent decades across a range of jurisdictions. In Australia they have doubled since the early 1980s, such that close to one in four prisoners is currently unconvicted. Taking NSW as a case study and drawing on the recent New South Wales Law Reform Commission Report on Bail (2012), this article will identify the key drivers of this increase in NSW, predominantly a form of legislative hyperactivity involving constant changes to the Bail Act 1978 (NSW), changes which remove or restrict the presumption in favour of bail for a wide range of offences. The article will then examine some of the conceptual, cultural and practice shifts underlying the increase. These include: a shift away from a conception of bail as a procedural issue predominantly concerned with securing the attendance of the accused at trial and the integrity of the trial, to the use of bail for crime prevention purposes; the diminishing force of the presumption of innocence; the framing of a false opposition between an individual interest in liberty and a public interest in safety; a shift from determination of the individual case by reference to its own particular circumstances to determination by its classification within pre‐set legislative categories of offence types and previous convictions; a double jeopardy effect arising in relation to people with previous convictions for which they have already been punished; and an unacknowledged preventive detention effect arising from the increased emphasis on risk. Many of these conceptual shifts are apparent in the explosion in bail conditions and the KPI‐driven policing of bail conditions and consequent rise in revocations, especially in relation to juveniles. The paper will conclude with a note on the NSW Government’s response to the NSW LRC Report in the form of a Bail Bill (2013) and brief speculation as to its likely effects.

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ID Code: 63890
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: bail, remand, presumptions, risk, conditions, compliance, revocation
ISSN: 2202–8005
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > CRIMINOLOGY (160200)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Crime & Justice Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Justice
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 the Author(s)
Deposited On: 03 Nov 2013 23:06
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2013 12:03

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