NACCHO Aboriginal Health Closing the Gap #justjustice : PM overturns Government’s opposition to target Indigenous imprisonment

             This post contains 7 articles on the issue of reducing Indigenous Incarceration rates  #JustJustice

“I am pleased that COAG has agreed to progress renewed targets in the year ahead.

A cornerstone of the refresh will be engaging meaningfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and organisations, including at a local level to make sure the agenda reflects their needs and aspirations for the future.”

 

1.Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has overturned his Government’s staunch opposition to establishing a target for reducing Indigenous imprisonment rates.

 ” The Labor Party is encouraged by reports today that the Prime Minister might finally overturn his government’s ridiculous opposition to implementing justice targets under the Closing the Gap framework.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has long ignored the calls for justice targets, despite repeated urgings from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and expert bodies.

If Malcolm Turnbull is ready to accept that his Minister is wrong, and to adopt Labor’s policy, that is excellent news.

National justice targets will allow us to focus on community safety, particularly the protection of women and children, preventing crime and reducing incarceration rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

2.The Hon Bill Shorten LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS or read in full below

Download Press Release 25 March Labor CTG Prison Rates

 

 ” Lives can be changed, hope can flourish and outcomes achieved but the helping hand is needed – pre-release and post-release. As a society we should be doing everything possible to keep people out of prison – and not everything we can to jail people, but where incarceration is the outcome, then everything must be done to help the people within them.

“They look at us like we are nothing or we are animals,” Former prisoner

It is better I am here so my children can have some hope,” Prisoner

“There is nothing for us to do inside except to keep our heads down and avoid trouble,” Prisoner

We need to invest in education opportunities while people are incarcerated in Juvenile Detention and in adult prisons and from effectively as soon as someone is incarcerated. What is on the outside can also be on the inside – prisons do not have to be vile dungeons of psychological torment. They can be communities of educational institutions, places of learning, social support structures.

3.Transform Australia’s prisons by Gerry Georgatos from Stringer

4.NACCHO

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #prisons #JustJustice : Terms of references released Over-representation of Aboriginal peoples in our prisons

 ” It’s a record, but not one to be proud of: one in four prisoners in NSW jails are Indigenous, a statistic that has risen by 35 per cent since the Coalition government came to power in 2011.

The Minister for Corrections David Elliott conceded “it is a tragedy”. Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders represented 24 per cent of the prison population in October 2016, up from 22 per cent in March 2011 “

5. NSW See Article here

” We know being incarcerated affects someone’s health and yet it is not one of the Closing the Gap targets. It’s Close the Gap Day and the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee’s Progress and Priorities report 2017 has been released.

The 2017 report calls for a social and cultural approach and covers many issues, including justice. This is the forth report from the Steering Committee to call for Justice Targets.

Since 2004, there has been a 95 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody. Over the same time, we have seen the crime rates decrease across the country.

Urgent action is required to reduce incarceration if we are ever to see life expectancy parity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.”

6.Summer May Finlay from Just Justice Croakey : Read Full report HERE Or Below

7.Dan Conifer for ABC TV reports from here

Despite making up just 3 per cent of the general population, about a quarter of Australia’s prison population is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The Greens, Labor, the Australian Medical Association, lawyers and other groups have long urged the Coalition to add a federal justice target to the Closing the Gap goals.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert last month renewed her push in a letter to Mr Turnbull.

Mr Turnbull recently replied, indicating the target would be considered amid a current review of the decade-old targets.

“I am pleased that COAG has agreed to progress renewed targets in the year ahead,” Mr Turnbull wrote.

“A cornerstone of the refresh will be engaging meaningfully with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and organisations, including at a local level to make sure the agenda reflects their needs and aspirations for the future.

“I have invited the Opposition and the crossbench to participate, particularly all of our Indigenous members of Parliament.”

Conspicuously, Mr Turnbull did not rule out the target.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has repeatedly rejected the idea of a federal justice target.

“The Commonwealth can’t have a justice target,” Senator Scullion said in September last year.

“It does absolutely nothing because we have none of the levers to affect the outcomes in terms of incarceration or the justice system but the states and territories do.”

Mr Turnbull reports to Parliament every year on seven Closing the Gap targets, such as Indigenous school attendance and life expectancy.

Senator Siewert said she was now more hopeful of change.

“I’m a little bit more optimistic that in fact they’re now looking at it a bit more favourably and see the sense in having a justice target,” she said.

“I hope they move swiftly on it and I’m looking forward to progress.”

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander young people are over 20 times more likely to be in jail than their peers.

The rate of Aboriginal women going to prison has more than doubled since 2000.

And fresh statistics from New South Wales show there has been a 35 per cent increase in Aboriginal inmates in the state’s prisons since 2011 — from 2,269 to 3,059.

‘I find it embarrassing’: Wyatt

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he was glad the door had been opened to the idea.

“That’s very heartening, especially as we go through a [youth detention] royal commission process,” he said.

“We are talking with the Commonwealth about what that may mean as a future investment into the broken youth justice system here in the territory.”

Mr Gunner said if a federal target was not implemented, the Territory would go it alone.

West Australian Labor’s Ben Wyatt is the nations’ first Indigenous Treasurer.

He has backed the federal target, but knows it is states that control the levers which make a difference.

“I would support anything that focuses the mind of a Government to reduce the rate of Indigenous incarceration,” he said.

“Western Australia is the worst in the nation, we need to have a strong, powerful look at how we go about reducing the number of Aboriginal people we have in our prisons.

“I find it embarrassing and personally distressing that my state continues to do that.”

2.TURNBULL MUST ACT ON INCARCERATION RATES & SUPPORT JUSTICE TARGETS : Labor Press Release

The Labor Party is encouraged by reports today that the Prime Minister might finally overturn his government’s ridiculous opposition to implementing justice targets under the Closing the Gap framework.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has long ignored the calls for justice targets, despite repeated urgings from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and expert bodies.

If Malcolm Turnbull is ready to accept that his Minister is wrong, and to adopt Labor’s policy, that is excellent news.

National justice targets will allow us to focus on community safety, particularly the protection of women and children, preventing crime and reducing incarceration rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The targets should be developed in cooperation with state and territory governments, law enforcement agencies, legal and community services, and guided by community leaders, Elders and Aboriginal representative organisations.

There has to be as much focus on the factors that can help prevent the high levels of incarceration, as well as what happens to individuals once in the criminal justice and corrective services system.

A young Indigenous man today is more likely to go to jail than university, and an Indigenous adult is 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than a non-Indigenous adult.

These appalling numbers demand action, including the reversal of the Government’s cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, further examination of noncustodial options and alternatives to mandatory detention, as well as a focus on justice reinvestment.

We call on the Prime Minister to urgently confirm this report, and work with Labor to make justice targets a reality.

The Turnbull Government can’t keep ignoring the Indigenous incarceration crisis. It must start showing national leadership and confront this challenge. Business as usual will not work. If we continue with the same approach, we’ll get the same results.

SATURDAY, 25 March

6.What gets measured gets managed

Summer May Finlay writes:

We know being incarcerated affects someone’s health and yet it is not one of the Closing the Gap targets. It’s Close the Gap Day and the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee’s Progress and Priorities report 2017 has been released.

The 2017 report calls for a social and cultural approach and covers many issues, including justice. This is the fourth report from the Steering Committee to call for Justice Targets.

Since 2004, there has been a 95 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody. Over the same time, we have seen the crime rates decrease across the country.

Urgent action is required to reduce incarceration if we are ever to see life expectancy parity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Despite the urgency of the need, and the calls by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations for an urgent response to this need, there has been no indication that governments are responding with the level of urgency required.

While governments fail to measure justice targets at the national level, there can be no management of the issues.

It’s been 25 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and very few of the recommendations have been implemented. It should be no surprise then that in the four years the Close the Gap Steering Committee have been calling for Justice targets that the Federal Government is moving at a glacial pace.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion had resisted the calls for Closing the Gap justice targets. Until late 2016, there appeared to be no consideration that the federal government might even have a role to play in reducing incarceration.

In September 2016, Minister Scullion said he would push the states and territories to introduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice targets. He said it is a state/territory responsibility and that the Federal government doesn’t have any of the levers to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration. This demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of the issues that drive incarceration, such as violence rates, including social determinants such as poverty and socio-economic disadvantage.

We have yet to hear whether Minister Scullion was able to work with the states and territories and see them introduce targets.

The Steering Committee reports are not the only reports which address the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates.

Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull was handed the Redfern Statement by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders at a breakfast at Parliament House last month. It calls for a focus on targets addressing incarceration and access to justice.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders want to see solutions which are evidence-based with a focus on prevention and early intervention.

Despite the Prime Minister being handed the Statement, the Federal Government do not appear to even seriously consider the inclusion of a justice target. At the Redfern Statement breakfast, the Prime Minister said:

“My Government will not shy away from our responsibility. And we will uphold the priorities of education, employment, health and the right of all people to be safe from family violence.”

He made no mention of incarceration and justice.

The Redfern Statement represented the unified voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders in health, justice, children and families, disability and family violence sectors. Eighteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations were the drivers. These organisations have a wealth of knowledge and experience that should not be dismissed. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations’ core business is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. They know what works in our communities.

The Federal Government can act quickly when they want on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice issues. After Four Corners aired video footage of an Aboriginal boy Dylan Voller hooded and strapped to a chair in the youth detention centre Don Dale, Prime Minister Turnbull initiated a Royal Commission into youth detention and child protection in the Northern Territory.

Our people are continuing to die way too young and one of the contributing factors is incarceration; the Federal Government is either ignoring the issue, or hoping someone else deals with it.

How many more people do we need to lose before they look to address all factors contributing to a reduced life expectancy, including #JustJustice?

• Download, read and share the 2nd edition of #JustJustice – HERE.


 

3.Transform Australia’s prisons

The more west we journey across the nation the higher the arrest rates, the higher the jailing rates. In the last two decades Australia’s prison population has doubled. The national prison population is nearly 40,000. More than 85 per cent of inmates have not completed a Year 12 education, more than 60 per cent have not completed Year 10, while 40 per cent did not get past Year 9. More than half were not in any paid employment when they were arrested, while half had been homeless.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015), Tasmanian prisons incarcerated 519 inmates, the Australian Capital Territory 396, NSW 11,797, Queensland 7,318, Victoria 6,219, South Australia 2,732, the Northern Territory 1,593 and Western Australia incarcerated 5,555. There are 5 prisons in Tasmania, one in the ACT, 34 in NSW, 10 in Queensland, 13 in Victoria, 8 in South Australia, 4 in the Northern Territory and 16 in Western Australia.

As the prison population has increased so has the number of privately managed prisons – 2 in NSW, 2 in Queensland, one in South Australia and 2 in Western Australia. The national prison population may double again but it appears this will only take ten years. Privately managed prisons will increase. The majority of the prison population is comprised of males but the female prison population is increasing. Ten per cent of Queensland’s prison population is comprised of women, 9 per cent in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

More than 10,000 inmates are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders – 28 per cent of the total prison population. 94 per cent of the Northern Territory prison population is comprised of Aboriginal peoples, 38 per cent in Western Australia, 32 per cent in Queensland, 24 per cent in NSW, 23 per cent in South Australia, 19 per cent in the ACT, 15 per cent in Tasmania and 8 per cent in Victoria. Non-Aboriginal Australians are incarcerated at less than 200 per 100,000 adults but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders adults are incarcerated at 2,330 per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults. It is worst in Western Australia where Aboriginal adults are incarcerated at close to the world’s highest jailing rate – 2nd highest at 3,745 per 100,000. But Western Australia enjoys the nation’s highest median wage – one of the world’s highest but not so for its Aboriginal peoples. If you are born Black in Western Australia you have a two in three chance of living poor your whole life.

If you are born Black in the Northern Territory you have a three in four chance of living poor your whole life. One in 8 of the nation’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders have been to jail. One in 6 has been to jail in Western Australia and for the Northern Territory. Poverty, homelessness, racism sets up people for failure, for prison, for reoffending. The situational trauma of incarceration is compounded by its ongoing punitive bent – and the majority of people come out of prison in worse condition than when they went in.

Art programs alone and some recreation will not transform the lives of the majority in the significant ways that matter. The prison experience is one of dank concrete cells, of isolation, of a constancy of trauma and anxieties, of entrenching depression and for many a degeneration to aggressive complex traumas. Australian prisons are not settings for healing, trauma recovery, restorative therapies, wellbeing, educational opportunities and positive future building. But they should be and can be.

Lives can be changed, hope can flourish and outcomes achieved but the helping hand is needed – pre-release and post-release. As a society we should be doing everything possible to keep people out of prison – and not everything we can to jail people, but where incarceration is the outcome, then everything must be done to help the people within them.

They look at us like we are nothing or we are animals,” Former prisoner

It is better I am here so my children can have some hope,” Prisoner

There is nothing for us to do inside except to keep our heads down and avoid trouble,” Prisoner

We need to invest in education opportunities while people are incarcerated in Juvenile Detention and in adult prisons and from effectively as soon as someone is incarcerated. What is on the outside can also be on the inside – prisons do not have to be vile dungeons of psychological torment. They can be communities of educational institutions, places of learning, social support structures.

There are 10, 11 and 12 year olds in Juvenile Detention facilities – child prisons – and the situational trauma of incarceration should not be allowed to degenerate these children into serious psychological hits. These are critically at-risk children who need support and not the rod. The majority of the children will respond to the helping hand, as long as they are validated and not denigrated.

With Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children, nearly 80 per cent will be jailed again after release from their first stint in Juvenile Detention. The punitive with all its associated denigrations is not working. The psychosocial self has been humiliated, debilitated, stressed by traumas. It is positive that there is an increased onus on post-prison mentoring, healing and education and work programs. There should be much more of this but we should not be waiting for this as post-prison options only and that all this should be in place from the commencement of incarceration. This would assist in reducing depression, anxieties and the building up of a sense of hopelessness. I am advocating for all so-called correctional facilities to be significantly transformed into communities of learning and opportunity. This is what any reasonably-minded society would support.

In NSW, 48 per cent of adult prisoners released during 2013 returned to prison within two years. In Victoria, 44 per cent returned within two years. In Queensland it was 41 per cent. In Western Australia it was 36 per cent. Western Australia incarcerates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at 17 times the non-Aboriginal rate while for Queensland, NSW and Victoria it is 11 times. In South Australia 38 per cent of adult prisoners released during 2013 returned within two years. South Australia incarcerates Aboriginal people at 13 times the non-Aboriginal rate. In Tasmania 40 per cent were returned within two years. In the ACT 39 per cent were returned and Aboriginal people were 15 times more likely to be incarcerated. In the Northern Territory 58 per cent were returned and Aboriginal people were 14 times more likely to be incarcerated. Australia’s prisons – no different in my experience with child protection authorities – carry on as if people cannot change. Australian prisons are administered by the States and Territories and therefore the onus for change must be argued to them although the Commonwealth can galvanise change and argue an onus on the humane, educative, transformational instead of the punitive which has led to the building of more ‘correctional facilities’ and the filling of them.

 

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As soon as we are locked up there should be plans for us to better us,” Former prisoner

Too many of us come out with less hope than ever before,” Former prisoner

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal Health Closing the Gap #justjustice : PM overturns Government’s opposition to target Indigenous imprisonment

  1. This is a shamfel state of afares we cant have the same old things being done all the time we no they dont work so lets do something more for the people instead of woring about imige or cost because the tru cost hear will be far grater if this culture of denile and inacsion continues we need to be more brasend more public to force people to exsept that this situasion is hear now and it is sereos and needs to be adrest we need far more than just throwing money around and its time we got it .

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