QUT Crime, Justice and Social Democracy Research Centre members Dr. Bridget Harris and Associate Professor Molly Dragiewicz published a Conversation piece with Professor Heather Douglas from The University of Queensland School of Law on 1 February 2019.
Young people with cognitive disabilities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. While about 4% of young men and 3% of young women have a cognitive disability in Australia, a much higher proportion of young people in detention (about 14%) has some form of cognitive impairment.
To contribute towards understanding this problem, Dr Kelly Richards (School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology) and Dr Kathy Ellem (School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Queensland) recently undertook interdisciplinary research on young people with cognitive disabilities’ first point of contact with the criminal justice system: the police. Funded by the Queensland Centre for Social Science Innovation, the research drew on the disciplines of criminology, social work and disability studies, and involved interviews with service providers who work with young people with cognitive disabilities in south-east Queensland. The project also sought the views of young people themselves, and for the first time, gave voice to three young people with cognitive disabilities who had been in contact with the police.
The research yielded a number of key insights that make a significant contribution to this under-examined topic:
• Service providers identified the phenomenon of “escalation” – ie, that once in an interaction with police, young people with cognitive disabilities face a range of difficulties exiting or evading police contact in ways that other young people usually successfully manage. Young people with cognitive disability may become highly visible to police and are at heightened risk of cycling in and out of the criminal justice system as offenders.
• Service providers also identified that young people with cognitive disabilities often come into increased contact with police due to the complex constellations of disadvantage that this group commonly experiences, such as homelessness, being in out-of-home care, co-morbid mental health conditions, and poverty. Further, a young person with cognitive disability may present with complex behavioural issues that others close to them find difficult to manage. Parents of young people and youth residential workers have been reported to deliberately involve the police as a strategy to cope with a young person’s challenging behaviours, again leading to increased police contact.
Young people with cognitive disabilities themselves reported in their interviews that being treated by police in ways that are “procedurally just” (ie being able to have a say, being treated with dignity, respect and fairness) enhanced their interactions with police. For example, 18-year-old “Justin” appeared to have a positive experience of citizen participation in his interaction with police. He reported having being supported by his disability worker to make a statement to police about a physical assault he had experienced. He reported that the police were “nice”, gave him time to explain things and directed some questions to his disability support worker, which he found helpful.
Findings from the study underscore the urgent need for better non-criminal justice supports for families of young people with cognitive disabilities, skill development in staff of youth services to better respond to complex behaviours of young people, as well as improved police training on issues of both youth and disability. The authors have recently been invited to present their research to Queensland‘s Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.
Publications from the research:
Richards, K., Ellem, K., Grevis-James, N. and Dwyer, A. (2017) Young people with cognitive impairments’ interactions with police in Queensland: A report to the Queensland Centre for Social Science Innovation. Brisbane: https://eprints.qut.edu.au/109470/
Ellem, K. and Richards, K. (2018) Police contact with young people with cognitive disabilities: Perceptions of procedural (in)justice. Youth Justice: An International Journal https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1473225418794357
Richards, K. and Ellem, K. (2018) Young people with cognitive impairments and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system: Service provider perspectives. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15614263.2018.1473771
Interested in undertaking higher degree research for a PhD or Masters with the School of Justice at QUT? It’s not too late to get an application in before the scholarship round ends on 30 September 2018.
We are currently looking to supervise students in our areas of expertise:
- Southern Criminology
- Activism and Social Change
- Gender, Sexuality and Violence
- Policing, Diversity and Society
- Technologies and Digital Justice
Domestic Violence Beyond the Obvious: Interpreting Power, Control and Manipulation
Fulbright Specialist Mark Wynn
8 October 2018
1 – 5 pm
Room-Three-Sixty, Level 10, Y Block, QUT Gardens Point Campus
Please join the QUT School of Justice for a special domestic violence event with Fulbright specialist Mark Wynn. This interactive training will enable participants to see domestic violence offender manipulation through the eyes of people who have experienced domestic violence, first responders, and advocates. This session will enhance participants’ understanding of the power, control, and manipulation tactics used by abusers, touching on probable cause, interpretation of injuries, justifiable self-defense and determining the dominant/primary aggressor.
The Fulbright Specialist Program supports Australian educational institutions through grants to bring U.S. Specialists in selected disciplines to Australia. The aim of the FSP grant is to assist Australian educational institutions to exchange expertise and build collaborative linkages with U.S. faculty and professionals on curriculum and faculty development, institutional planning and a variety of other activities.
Congratulations to School of Justice PhD graduate Dr Natasha Papazian. Her thesis Transgender domestic violence: An analysis of the transgender community and service provision in Queensland examines domestic violence from the perspectives of transgender people and LGBT-friendly service providers. Associate Professor Molly Dragiewicz and Associate Professor Matthew Ball supervised the project.
Molly Dragiewicz, Jean Burgess, Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández, Michael Salter, Nicolas P. Suzor, Delanie Woodlock & Bridget Harris recently published Technology facilitated coercive control: Domestic violence and the competing roles of digital media platforms. Feminist Media Studies, 18(4), 609–625. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2018.1447341
Crime and Justice Research Centre members Associate Professor Michael Flood and Associate Professor Molly Dragiewicz and Deakin University Honorary Professor Bob Pease recently published Resistance and backlash to gender equality: An evidence review Read more
ABC Focus will run an episode on domestic violence education in Australia on 27 March 2018 at 12:00pm QLD time. The episode features JS12 Queensland University of Technology’s Graduate Certificate in Domestic Violence and JSB286 Queensland University of Technology’s interdisciplinary undergraduate elective Domestic Violence.
Listen to the episode here
Links to resources from the episode can be found here.