Accepted Paper:

'Getting it over with': juveniles' responses to waiting and uncertainty in the Western Australia criminal justice system  


Edward McDonald (Ethnosciences)

Paper short abstract:

The phrase ‘getting it over with’, which encapsulates both aspects of Gasparini’s analysis of waiting, pervades juveniles’ accounts of their court experience. Uncertainty ensures their primary focus is on the case outcome and creates a desire to terminate their engagement with the system as quickly as possible.

Paper long abstract:

The phrase 'getting it over with' permeates juveniles' accounts of their experiences in the criminal justice system from the moment of their apprehension and charging by the police to the finalisation of their court appearance and serves as a rational underling their actions such as confessing to the police and pleading guilty in court. The phrase encapsulates both aspects of Gasparini's (1995) analysis of waiting: waiting or the temporal aspect and expectation or the event aspect. As Courts, for most defendants, are generally unfamiliar organisations and their experiences are usually fleeting and episodic; defendants typically experience 'reality shock' and are faced with the problems of 'learning by doing' as they perform social identity. The resultant stress and uncertainty ensures that their primary focus is on the outcome of their case and not on the processes whereby the outcome is reached and creates a desire to terminate their engagement with the system as quickly as possible. When defendants choose to exercise their rights and contest the charges, waiting can be used as a 'time tax' by the prosecution to further penalise them (Schwartz 1975, Gasparini 1995). In addition to added costs in time, defendants also face further costs in 'reputation' and 'good will'. This paper examines the experiences of juvenile defendants in four courts in Western Australia within the context of the wider criminal justice system and people processing organisations where waiting is endemic.

Panel W095
Waiting for Godot & Co: modes and moods of the uneventful