Race and Incarceration: Comparing re-integration in Australia and the United States

Tags: Criminal Justice, Mass Incarceration, Race

13 March 2017

Time: 9:00am - 5:00pm

Location: Refectory, Holme Building, Science Rd, University of Sydney

Cost: Please contact us for registration enquiries.

Why are racial disparities in the justice system so pronounced in two countries with such distinctive racial histories?  Following a year in which revelations of abuse in Australia’s juvenile detention system provoked a national discussion on the treatment of our indigenous communities, and the establishment of a federal inquiry into the average representation of indigenous Australians in prisons, the United States Studies Centre is convening a gathering of international experts to examine the racial disparity affecting the justice systems in both countries and to chart a way forward.
Conference Sessions
  • Why are radial disparities in the justice system so pronounced in two countries with such distinctive racial histories? 
  • Transitions from prison to community: What are the main challenges to successful social integration after incarceration? 
  • Film: Voices from Boston and the Territory  
  • Voices from the field: What is needed to promote social integration after incarceration? 
  • What alternatives are working on the ground? 
  • Racial justice and criminal justice: How to promote justice in contexts of poverty and racial inequality? 

Keynote Speaker

Professor Bruce Western

Bruce Western is a Professor of Sociology and Guggenheim Professor of Criminal Justice Policy, Director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, and Faculty Chair of the Program in Criminal Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He received his BA from the University of Queensland, Australia, and his PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Western's research examines trends in American economic inequality and the growth of the US penal population. These topics are joined by an interest in the shifting landscape of American poverty over the last 40 years. As a quantitative social scientist, Western has also studied the application of Bayesian statistics and methods for the analysis of economic inequality. He is currently vice-chair of a committee studying the causes and consequences of high incarceration rates for the National Academies of Sciences and will lead an Executive Session at the Kennedy School on the future of correctional policy.



Sarah Hopkins

Sarah Hopkins is Chair of the Just Reinvest NSW and the Managing Solicitor of Justice Projects at the Aboriginal Legal Service ACT/NSW. Sarah is an accredited specialist in criminal law and has lectured in criminal law at the University of NSW. She has been working with the Bourke community since 2012 and is Project Director of the Maranguka Justice Reinvestment Project in Bourke, which was the recipient of the 2015 National Rural Law and Justice Award.  Throughout her legal career Sarah has served on numerous committees including the Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society of NSW and as Vice President, the NSW Council for Civil Liberties. In 2015 Sarah was a member of the Steering Committee for the Red Cross Vulnerability Report.


Professor Shane Houston (Invited)

Professor Houston is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Affairs & Strategy) at The University of Sydney. Professor Houston was previously executive director of systems performance and Aboriginal policy with the NT Department of Health and Families. He has been actively engaged in Aboriginal advancement issues for more than 30 years at a community level, working in government and in a number of international settings, including various United Nations-related activities. He has a long-standing interest in the development of culturally secure health services and systems, and in health economics – especially in finding greater equity in how health systems allocate and use resources. He had previously been a board member of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and the Lowitja Institute.


Professor Simon Jackman

Professor Simon Jackman became CEO of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney in April 2016. Born and raised in Australia, he went to the United States for his PhD (Political Science, Rochester) in 1988.  From 1996 to 2016, Jackman taught Political Science and Statistics at Stanford University. Simon’s research focuses on public opinion, political participation, and electoral systems, in both the United States and Australia.  Since 2009, Simon has been one of the Principal Investigators of the American National Election Studies, the world’s longest running and most authoritative study of political attitudes and behaviour.


Benjamin Mudaliar

Benjamin Mudaliar, Assistant Secretary, Community Safety Branch, Indigenous Affairs Group at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet


Thomas Quayle

Thomas Quayle was born and raised in New Zealand where he obtained his qualifications in social work and law. He has six years’ experience working with Aboriginal prisoners and Parolees in the Northern Territory of Australia where he developed and implemented the CAALAS Parolee Support Program and currently manages the NAAJA Throughcare Program. In addition to his experience providing support to Aboriginal prisoners and detainees, Thomas has also held social work, policy and community legal education roles in Australia, Botswana, New Zealand and Scotland.


Vincent Schiraldi

Vincent Schiraldi is a Senior Research Fellow directing the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Schiraldi has long experience in public life, first coming to prominence as founder of the policy think tank, the Justice Policy Institute, then moving to government as director of the juvenile corrections in Washington, DC, and then as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation. Most recently Schiraldi served as Senior Advisor to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

In Washington and New York Schiraldi gained a national reputation as a fearless reformer who emphasized the humane and decent treatment of the men, women, and children under his correctional supervision. For Schiraldi, making communities safer and reducing crime necessarily means improving fairness in the system and developing opportunities in the poor communities where the crime problem is most serious. He pioneered efforts at community-based alternatives to incarceration with the YouthLink initiative in Washington DC, in New York City with the NeON network and the Close to Home program.

Schiraldi has a Masters in Social Work from New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Social Psychology from Binghamton University.


Catherine Sirois

Catherine Sirois was a Project Coordinator with the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management (PCJ) at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Before leaving HKS in late August, 2015, she managed the Boston Reentry Study (directed by Bruce Western, Anthony Braga, and Rhiana Kohl) a longitudinal survey of 122 men and women recently released from Massachusetts state prison.

Before joining the PCJ Catherine worked with Harvard professor Bruce Western on an evaluation of a prison reentry program in New York City. She also spent a year contributing to social justice initiatives in Uganda and Senegal.

Natalie Smith

Natalie Smith is Project Manager for Harvard Kennedy School's New York Reentry Study. Natalie is a sociologist and visual artist, currently based in New York City. She is experienced in qualitative and quantitive social science research, as well as documentary film production. Her areas of interest include American inequality, poverty, racial disparities, and mass incarceration. Natalie is particularly interested in the intersection of the arts and justice, and is developing a collaborative video documentary project with families who have experienced incarceration.


John Tavares

John Tavares is affiliated with the Boston Reentry Study. 


Calla Wahlquist

Calla is a reporter for The Guardian Australia focusing on Indigenous affairs, justice and the environment. 


Rick Welsh

Rick is the manager of The Shed based at Emerton. Rick is also involved with the Sydney Aboriginal Men's Network.

Rick is currently working with Legal Aid and other parties on a strategy for managing Apprehended Violence Order-based jailing of Aboriginal men.


James Brown

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Simon Jackman

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