The rise of a punitive “law and order” culture in Australia has had a profoundly racial dimension, manifested in soaring rates of indigenous incarceration. The number of indigenous adults held in the nation’s jails has increased for the 11th year in a row — as Crikey revealed in part one yesterday — while over the past decade the indigenous imprisonment rate has outstripped the non-indigenous rate by a factor of 11, ballooning more than 47%. The non-indigenous rate grew 4% in the same period.
This shift towards the use of crime and punishment as a tool of social control — known as “governing through crime” — has led to the rise of a “risk agenda” that concentrates on the risk of crime occurring, not just actual crime. In this society of heightened fear and increased surveillance, punishment is increasingly targeted at those on the periphery. And no group lies more at the periphery than indigenous Australians.