NACCHO #justJustice Prison Health News Alert : Health cure needed for Indigenous incarceration

Prison

“Shamefully, poor health is a big part of this picture. The ‘imprisonment gap’ is a symptom of the health gap. As doctors, we believe that prevention is better than cure. By focusing on health, wellbeing, and diversion from the justice system, particularly for the young, lives can be transformed, to the benefit of the whole community. Sick people do not belong in prison; but too often, that is where they can end up, and that is no way to get better – in any sense.

We believe that these programs should be driven by Indigenous leaders and those working in the field, providing health services, representation, and advocacy, and would be pleased to work the government to develop these programs. The national underfunding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services must also be corrected, with increased investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations.”

The Law Society of South Australia and Australian Medical Association (SA) are jointly and overwhelmingly concerned by the rate of Indigenous imprisonment in Australia.

We call on Federal and State Governments to prioritise justice reinvestment programs and “close the gap” targets which give better solutions to preventing Indigenous offending than the four walls of a jail cell.

The AMA’s recent Report Card on Indigenous health and imprisonment reveals a clear link between health outcomes and imprisonment rates. The report shows that community-based initiatives help prevent re-offending.

President of the Law Society, David Caruso, said: “These initiatives focus on prevention and early intervention. They target the reasons for criminality and are effective in reducing re-offending and giving people options for a law abiding life”.

Justice reinvestment is supported by lawyers and doctors. The Chief Justice of South Australia, the Honourable Chris Kourakis, has voiced his support for justice reinvestment in the latest “Aboriginal Justice” edition of The Law Society Bulletin.

The Law Society and AMA (SA) agree that diversion programs should focus on issues endemic to disadvantaged Indigenous communities including poor health, particularly mental illness, and substance abuse. These issues are among the most significant drivers of the imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Our Aboriginal communities need and deserve better and smarter approaches to getting people out of the criminal justice system and prisons. We need evidence-based solutions that have rehabilitation as their aim,” Mr Caruso said.

“It is not a quick fix but we need to firmly invest in change now. The sooner we do so, the sooner we show a commitment to breaking the cycle of disproportionate and unacceptable numbers of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.”

“Crime, poverty and ill-health should not be daily concerns for Aboriginal people, or any members of our community. But for too many, it is a reality. We need multi-sector commitment to create better opportunities and health for our First Peoples,” Mr Caruso said.

“Both the health and justice systems are failing Indigenous Australians,” said AMA(SA) President Dr Janice Fletcher. “While passionate, hard-working people are dedicating their lives to making a difference in these areas, it is still not enough. Our whole health and justice systems need to do much better.”

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are dying sooner than other Australians, and are significantly over-represented in custodial settings. They are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than their non-Indigenous peers.

“Shamefully, poor health is a big part of this picture. The ‘imprisonment gap’ is a symptom of the health gap. As doctors, we believe that prevention is better than cure. By focusing on health, wellbeing, and diversion from the justice system, particularly for the young, lives can be transformed, to the benefit of the whole community. Sick people do not belong in prison; but too often, that is where they can end up, and that is no way to get better – in any sense,” said Dr Fletcher.

The South Australian Government has been investigating the implementation of a justice reinvestment pilot program, but sufficient funding has not been made available to establish a program as yet. The Law Society and AMA (SA) call on the Government to honour its election promise and commit funding to establish a justice reinvestment pilot program. Further, the Law Society and AMA (SA) call on the Federal Government to coordinate a national justice reinvestment program in conjunction with States and Territories, focusing on areas with high rates of crime and disadvantage.

We believe that these programs should be driven by Indigenous leaders and those working in the field, providing health services, representation, and advocacy, and would be pleased to work the government to develop these programs. The national underfunding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services must also be corrected, with increased investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations.

Support needed for our next NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign for the governments of Australia to commit to achieving equality  for Indigenous people in the areas of health and  life expectancy within 25 years.”

Next publication date 6 April 2016

Advertising and editorial closes 18 March 2016

Download Advertising rate card

Response to this NACCHO media initiative has been nothing short of sensational over the past 3 years , with feedback from around the country suggesting we really kicked a few positive goals for national Aboriginal health.

Thanks to all our supporters, most especially our advertisers, NACCHO’S Aboriginal Health News is here to stay.

NACCHO welcomes feedback/comment:Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s