Australia: 25% more Aborigines in prison

(GreenLeft) According to a study by Sydney University’s Institute of Criminology, the number of Aborigines in Australian prisons rose by 25% in the four years to last June. The numbers of Aboriginal women imprisoned, already high compared to non-Aboriginal women, rose by a staggering 63%.

The report is especially disturbing because the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody identified the disproportionate rate of imprisonment as the main reason for the large numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody. Since the royal commission, which investigated 99 Aboriginal deaths, delivered its final reports 10 months ago, another 29 Aborigines have died in prisons or police custody, according to Aboriginal activists.

The royal commission found that while Aborigines make up only 1.4% of the Australian population, 28.6% of all people imprisoned during a month-long survey in August 1988 were Aborigines. Most were young and imprisoned for minor offences.

The mean age for Aboriginal prisoners was 26.3 years, compared to 30.7 years for other prisoners; 57% of Aborigines in prison were locked up for public drunkenness (27% of non-Aborigines).

Overall, in 1989, Aboriginal adults had an imprisonment rate of 1465 per 100,000, compared to 97 per 100,000 adult non- Aborigines — i.e. 15 times higher!

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