Whatever happened to ‘Prison as a Last Resort’? Time now to consider the path towards abolition!

Peter Norden1
1Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

This paper highlights some of the issues contained in the presentation made at the Inaugural Tony Vinson Memorial Lecture at UNSW in September of this year.

This presentation also responds to the call by the new editors of the ANZSOC journal, Andrew Goldsmith and Mark Halsey, in the March 2017 edition, where they stated their priorities for the journal in the coming years:
‘We are interested to promote work centred on big and bold criminological ideas’. They indicated that they wanted to focus on ‘intractable criminological problems (such as) First Nations over-incarceration…’ They continued: ‘It is noticeable to us how often programs at criminology conferences barely engage with some of the issues on the front pages of newspapers or other media’.

Responding to that call, this paper intends to critique the role of the State in failing to limit the use of imprisonment to situations of serious crime and extending the prison estate to over-represent not only indigenous persons but also those non-indigenous persons who come from the most disadvantaged postcodes in Australia. It is time for our expanding prison systems across Australia to stop incarcerating those with a disability or addiction and to focus on its proper purpose: serious criminal activity.

The paper includes a 10 step pathway towards reducing the national prison population by 5% per year over the next 20 years!


Peter Norden is a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology and an Honorary Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University. He has exercised many roles within the Victorian criminal justice system over 40 years. In 2007, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO) ‘for services to community development through social research and programs aimed at assisting marginalised young people and offenders, and to the mental health sector in Australia’.

Turning a spotlight on the surging number of incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Victoria

Mrs Una Stone1
1Rmit University, Social and Global Studies Centre, Doncaster East, Australia

Worldwide the number of incarcerated women is soaring. Research in this area informs us of the specific issues around the incarceration of women, the majority of whom are single parents, and the impact which their incarceration has on their ability to reconnect with their children on release. In particular, here in Victoria, Australia, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women incarcerated has grown by 248 per cent since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’s final report in 1991. The impact of their incarceration has a long term intergenerational effect on them, their families and their communities. Such effects include losing their children, their homes, their jobs and disconnection from family and friends. This in turn facilitates the cultural disconnection of their children. With the lack of government commitment to both the Redfern Statement (2016) and the Uluru statement (2017) it appears that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s voices continue to fall on deaf ears. This paper will examine the key drivers and underlying issues behind the rising number of incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Victoria and will explore what interventions have taken place to address this contentious issue.


Una Stone has lectured at RMIT since 2005. She graduated Masters (by Research) in 2013 with her thesis titled ‘Mothering inside and outside prison’. She is now writing her PhD on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s incarceration in regional Victoria. Her other research interests include violence against women, incarcerated women and the colonisation of Australia.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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