Courts, Sentencing and Justice
Research Brief InstructionsIn this assessment, you need to develop and write up a project analysing court sentencing transcripts. To do this, you will:• identify a relevant research question• Identify a sample of sentencing transcripts• Analyse the sample of sentencing transcripts• Write up your research in the form of a research brief.
• Students will submit a research brief, consisting of a short literature review, a brief methods, findings and discussion. Research brief should be 2,500 words,
and in report form (i.e. students should construct a reasoned, critical reflection in narrative form.) Students must follow the APA guidelines for referencing and the
formating requirements.• This task is designed to help students master research and writing skills, as well as skills in critical thinking about the empirical study of sentencing.
Possible ESSAY topics• Is deterrence a primary source of punishment for these kinds of crimes (rape, burglary, theft, shoplifting) or violent crimes in general• What types of things do judges take into account when sentencing an offender? Oro What types of things do judges take into account when sentencing fro theft or burglary? (e.g. deterrence, community protection, rehabilitation, the nature of
the offence) • Whether judges are using age as a mitigating or aggravating factor for different crimes• Do judges take different things into account in mitigating or aggrevating for Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. What about for Aboriginal men and women• Are Aboriginal women and men over-represented in the Australian Judicial System/jail. What is the impact of high incarceration rates for indigenous women? Also
take into account non-indigenous women. • WRITERS OWN TOPIC: IF YOU DO CHOOSE A TOPIC, YOU MUST NOTIFY ME FIRST BEFORE YOU COMMENCE WRITING SO THAT I MAY FIRST APPROVE.
PLEASE NOTE THAT WHEN I TALK ABOUT INDIGENOUS MEN/WOMEN, I’M TALKING IN THE CONTEXT OF AUSTRALIA AND NO OTHER COUNTRY. ONLY LOOK AT AUSTRALIAN DATA, HOWEVER, YOU CAN
COMPARE AND CONTRAST.
FOLLOW THE BELOW STEPS
So what steps do I need to take?Step 1 Visit the South Australian courts site (http://www.courts.sa.gov.au/SentencingRemarks/Pages/default.aspx) and look through 2 to 3 sentencing remarks from the
District Court. Step 2 Identify a question that can be answered using these sentencing remarks. (We will discuss possibilities and provide feedback in class or online.)In general, it will be a question that focuses on how judges rationalise or reason about their sentencing decision. For example, are there gender differences in the
reasons provided by judges in the sentencing of property offenders? Or what sentencing goal is prioritised in the sentencing of sex offenders?Step 3 Identify past research that is relevant to your question. Step 4 Develop a sampling strategy (e.g. systematic sampling, quota sampling, simple random sampling). Again, we will discuss how this can be done in class or online.
(You might also like to review what you learnt about sampling in 1019CCJ.)You will need to select 5 to 10 sentencing remarks. (If your question is comparative, then we would expect closer to 10 sentencing remarks.)Select your transcripts. Print them out, and number them in some way. In writing up your research brief, you will use these numbers, not defendant names.Step 5 Review past research.Step 6 Read through your 5 to 10 sentencing transcripts. Collate some basic information about the offenders and their cases: e.g. the types of offences, gender of the
offender, presence of prior history, presence of substance use, mental health problems, etc., as well as the sentencing outcomes. What you present will depend on your
research question.Put this in a table. (We will provide an example).Place the table in your paper and write up a brief description of what this tells us. The purpose here is to give the reader an idea of what is in your sample.Step 7 Analyse your transcripts in terms of your research question. What do your transcripts tell you overall about your research question? Thinking about your
question, what common themes do you find? What differences? Do all transcripts contain this information or theme? If not, what is in the others? (Again, we will
discuss this task in class and online.)HINT: Do not hide information that may be contrary to your question. This is not an advocacy paper. You should present the evidence in total, and then assess what it
means for answering your question. You might want to use highlighters to record similar issues in each transcript; this will also make finding quotes to support your
findings easier.Step 8 Write up what you found. Use selected quotes from the transcript to support your argument. Select quotes that are typical of the sentencing transcripts.Make sure that after the quote you place the sentencing remark ID number. You may also add whether male/female, type of offence, if relevant to your question. Again an
example analysis of sentencing remarks will be provided.Step 6 In the conclusion (discussion) section, summarise your overall findings. Make sure you give an answer to your research question. Then discuss how your findings
fit with past research (similar, different, why different?), what they mean theoretically, and what are the limitations.
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