Meta: stoush

I’ve moved my comments responding to Linda here because otherwise it is derailing Helen’s thread. This is for the record, it’s combative and not particularly edifying, but for the sake of transparency it’s being published and can be discussed by anyone so inclined. Everyone who just wants to pass over to Otters and Politics, please feel free to ignore.

Linda’s response to my challenging a statistical claim made by her:

I just dug out the entire training package from that work shop, and the figures aren’t quite the same. I don’t have an explanation for that, but I feel that I have to say that the people who work at CRC are an amazingly dedicated bunch of people who are committed to assisting and supporting offenders and their families (in other words, women and their children), with bugger all funding and even less recognition or community support, and the work shop served to enlighten service providers about the issues surrounding offenders and the reasons behind recidivism. This helps people from severely disadvantaged backgrounds to be treated with some dignity by workers at places like Centrelink and Dept. Housing. They work hard to protect and uphold the human rights of the least empowered people in the community. Overall, women *are* being incarcerated at a faster rate than men. I thought that fact tied in with the point Helen was making in her post. I felt that I had something to add to the discussion.
I’m sorry you felt the need to go to so much trouble to discredit not only what I said but the work of CRC, in the process. It’s really disappointing.
I hope you enjoy being ‘right’ but I don’t think it’s the most important thing in a discussion like this.

Then, in response to Helen, this from Linda:

“if we are wrong, we never hear the end of it.”

Yeah I do realise that, and it’s just been reified right here hasn’t it? And I didn’t actually say that I thought tig tog had *deliberately* set out to discredit an organisation that has been operating for over half a century, I just wanted to make the point that her mission to discredit me was also minimising the work of CRC, and the ability to google stats does not make you an expert on an issue.

“I think someone at that workshop got things wrong!” IS dismissive of their work and a massive display of unexamined privilege.

Here is a link:

I’m really too upset and disgusted to participate any further here.

Several other commentors responded defending me against the claim that I intended to discredit CRC (thank you). My first reply:


“I think someone at that workshop got things wrong!” IS dismissive of their work and a massive display of unexamined privilege.

I can see how it could be read that way, and I regret that in an attempt to actually be polite to you I worded myself in such a way.

What I should have said is what I was thinking, which was that *you*, personally (as a person who attended that workshop), seem to have the wrong end of the statistics stick. Which is further evidenced by this statement in your previous comment:

Overall, women *are* being incarcerated at a faster rate than men.

“Overall”? There is no such thing in statistics as “overall”. There are different rates of change which are very precisely defined, and if you fail to use the precise term and instead broaden to generalities then you are actually misrepresenting the figures.

* The absolute rate of incarceration of men is still more than 10x higher than that of women.
* The prison population of women has shown a greater rate of increase than the general prison population over the 10 years.
* The rate of increase in incarceration for the population at large cannot actually be determined from those figures – we need to know the population of NSW in the relevant years to compare, because the population has grown.

I remember reading that in the US the explosion in the numbers of women in prison is almost entirely due to the “3 strikes and you’re out” laws combined with the “War Against Some Drugs”, meaning custodial sentences and longer sentences for minor drug offences committed by non-violent female offenders. I’m pretty sure that I read that a similar phenomenon is behind the increase in the prison population of women here in Australia as well.

So if most of the new incarcerees aren’t there for violent offences, how is your figure, even if it was correct, relevant to a thread about domestic violence?

I’m really too upset and disgusted to participate any further here.

It’s not unexamined privilege to want accuracy in argument. It’s stubborn and pedantic and it obviously annoys you, but it’s not privileged. That people often disagree with you is not necessarily an expression of privilege either. It could be far more to do with your propensity for wild claims. But I’m sure you’ll have a go at us over at your blog again anyway.

My second reply:

Thank you to everyone for the support, by the way. I would never claim that I do not have many forms of privilege – I am middle-class, tertiary-educated, het, am read as white, with all the advantages those privileges bring. Of course these do inform the way that I argue my case in any discussion, and in particular the weight that I give to formally rigorous arguments.

I must also, to be entirely honest, confess that Linda’s contributions here as a commentor I generally find more irritating than constructive, and this has indeed coloured the way that I dealt with her claim. My awareness that I was irritated made me soften my language because I wanted to appear scrupulously fair, and in the end it made what I said easy to misconstrue as a broader aspersion on an entire organisation rather than the criticism I intended it to be against the actual person here in this forum that put forward an unsupported claim.

Linda: if you do decide that you wish to keep needling us here about our smug het privileges, your contributions will certainly be tolerated. To expect us to enjoy being needled is unreasonable, especially when you have a tendency to be smugly self-righteous with it all, but needling is undoubtedly sometimes useful, so you are welcome to continue. You will however continue to be challenged when you are factually incorrect.

I recommend that in the case of statistics you stick with exact quotes from original sources, because you do not understand the terminology well enough to summarise it accurately in your own words. Most people don’t understand statistics accurately, not just you, and generalising the specifics of statistics in a way that makes them inaccurate is sadly all too common and very rarely challenged because not enough people know enough about statistics. But on this blog, Lauredhel and I both know our way around statistics rather well. Anybody who comes up with statistics that don’t make sense will be challenged. We’ve always done it here, and we’re not going to stop doing it here just for you.

Ok, anyone who wants to comment on this sidetrack, please do it on this thread and let’s leave Helen’s thread to attempt to get back on track.

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5 replies

  1. This is a bit meta to the meta now but here goes: I’d heard of the stats that Linda quoted and I believe it refers to the rate of increase in custodial sentences vs noncustodial between the genders. Here’s a link to the CRC which states “The Australian prison population consists of 93% male prisoners, although female imprisonment increases at more than twice the male rate.” Link
    I haven’t tracked down a copy of the DCS annual report 2004/5 which is the source.

  2. Duh, no Su, the souce was Australian Institute of Crminology stats for the ABS, 2004.
    Haven’t found it either.

    • Thanks for tracking down an original source, Su. That the “twice the male rate” refers to a rate of increase in a ratio makes much more sense in relation to the absolute rate of imprisonment.

  3. No worries. I have found an AIC PDF.
    This is the relevant passage from that report.

    In 1991, 607 women were incarcerated. In 1999 this had almost doubled to 1,124 (an 85 per cent increase) In 1991, 9.2 women per 100,000 were imprisoned compared with 15.3 per 100,000 in 1999. As a rate per 100,000 of the population, the increase is about 66 per cent. The incarceration of women has
    occurred at a faster rate than it has for men. The population of sentenced men incarcerated has increased from 12,429 in 1991 to 17,208 in 1999. This constitutes an increase of about 38 per cent. The men’s rate per 100,000 has increased from 194 to 240.5 (a 24 per cent increase).

    It makes interesting reading. Although the absolute numbers were low for non-indigenous and indigenous women, the rate of increase in incarceration rates amongst indigenous women is three times that for non-indigenous women. There have been a few Messagestick programmes about the incarceration of indigenous peoples, who have been disproportionately affected by the Laura Norder politics of the last decade or so.

  4. My appalling formatting skills strike again, sorry Pdf

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