4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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How do crime and justice relate to individual wellbeing?

One important way in which social justice can be delivered to individuals is via an effective criminal and civil justice system. Individuals benefit from living in a society where standards of behaviour that are widely accepted are upheld, and where criminal justice systems operate effectively to minimise harm to people and property. Individuals who are victims of crime, and their families can suffer in many ways, and the fear of crime can also affect and restrict people's lives. Some individuals are at greater risk of becoming offenders or victims due to their circumstances or actions. The wellbeing of offenders and their families is also affected, e.g. by corrective and rehabilitation policy.

How do they relate to the wellbeing of society?

There are high financial costs incurred by society in preventing crime, providing justice infrastructures, repairing criminal damage, supporting victims and dealing with offenders. High crime rates or levels of litigation can also diminish social resources, such as community trust, confidence and freedom. Ultimately, the concept of justice is central to civil social interaction and social order.

What are some key social issues?
  • Understanding the nature and extent of crime and how this is changing over time, and how and why crimes and crime rates differ between geographic areas.
  • Developing effective crime prevention strategies through understanding causes of crime and factors affecting crime rates (e.g. the role of drugs and alcohol in crime), patterns in victimisation and offending, and pathways to crime.
  • Optimising accurate measurement of crime, including unreported crime.
  • Evaluating criminal justice strategies and agencies to ensure the criminal justice system is adequately funded and achieving high levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Effectively supporting victims of crime and their families and rehabilitating offenders.

What are the key definitional challenges?

There are fundamental standards of behaviour understood by most people in a society, and the laws of a country aim to reflect these. However, moral and ethical norms can change over time, and differ from one community to another. Criminal and civil justice systems can also differ between regions and societies, and vary in the way they define crime and administer justice. It is also challenging to define the scope of this potentially very broad area. As more serious crime and justice matters are eventually funnelled through the criminal justice system, this system provides a useful focus.

What are the main measurement issues?
  • A great deal of useful data is available as a by-product of criminal and civil justice systems. However, some crimes go unreported or undetected. Household surveys can go some way to identifying unreported crimes.
  • Differences between States in legislation and methods of collecting crime-related statistics can affect comparability, and hamper compilation of national data.
  • Tracking the outcomes of criminal incidents through the different stages of the criminal justice system (i.e. the investigative, adjudicative and corrective stages) can be difficult as the organisations administering these stages (police, courts and corrective services) differ in function and data collection methods.

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