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Western Australia’s Indigenous Prisoner Dilemma

Western Australia Holds More Indigenous Australians Prisoner Than Any Other State.

WA+prisons%27+Indigenous+population+makes+up+the+most+across+the+nation.
WA prisons' Indigenous population makes up the most across the nation.

WA prisons' Indigenous population makes up the most across the nation.

WA prisons' Indigenous population makes up the most across the nation.

Oliver Skelton

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Western Australia currently detains more Indigenous Australians than anywhere else in the country.
Indigenous Australians are 18.5 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-indigenous Australians.
The number falls just short of America’s imprisonment of African Americans which is at about 4000 per 100,000.
However, it’s not just adult incarceration which is producing alarming numbers.
A study conducted by Amnesty International (AI) in 2015 found that Indigenous children aged between 10-17 made up 80% of juvenile detainees.
Amnesty’s national director, Claire Malison, issued a statement on the findings.
“The over-representation of Aboriginal children in detention centres is shameful, but it is staggeringly shameful in WA,” she said.
Malison said alternative programs focusing on the rehabilitation of offenders needed to be a primary focus of the Western Australian Government.
“It’s not about spending more money,” she said.  “It’s actually about pulling that spending out of the bottomless pit of the justice system, and redirecting it to aboriginal-led prevention and diversion programs that work.”
Two years ago, former Premier Colin Barnett stood on the steps of Parliament and addressed 500 indigenous Australians protesting for change of government policy regarding indigenous incarceration.
“I would be failing you as the Premier of this state if I ignored these issues,” he said.
” You might not like me for that, but I believe in what we are trying to do to help. And I ask you, as Aboriginal people, and as leaders of your community, to work with me and work with the government to improve the lifestyle and opportunities for Aboriginal people.”
However, since this statement, incarceration numbers of Indigenous Australians have increased by seven percent. Last year saw the number of Indigenous Australians in prison facilities jump from 3483 to 3745.
Premier Mark McGowan put forward his “Target 120” plan in January, in which he highlighted a program designed to prevent juveniles re-offending as adults.
“The disproportionately high rate of aboriginal juvenile incarceration means many offenders who graduate to the adult prison system are aboriginal,” the plan states.
“The program will focus solely on the worst juvenile offenders who are about to embark upon, or who have already entered, the criminal pathway. Success of the program can be easily gauged through measuring any change rates of recidivism.”
The growing number of Indigenous Australian prisoners is further exacerbated by overcrowded WA prisons.
A report from Custodial Service found that, as of June 2016, prisons were populated at 148% of modified capacity. Prisoners have had to “double bunk” with other inmates, compromising a right to privacy.
The 33-page document is a layout of rules and regulations of how prisoners should be treated during their incarceration. It was created in 1995 and is implemented by all countries inside of the United Nations.
Rule 12 of the booklet states: “Each prisoner should occupy by night a cell room by himself or herself. Only for special reasons should it become necessary for the central prison administration to make an exception to this rule. It is not desirable to have two prisoners in a cell or room.”
Additionally, a report from the National Council of Women of WA found Indigenous women make up 97% of those imprisoned for “drunken behaviour.”
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Western Australia’s Indigenous Prisoner Dilemma