Six deaths in custody in six weeks

Issue 

Six deaths in custody in six weeks

By Sujatha Fernandes

The deaths of six Aboriginal prisoners in the last six weeks "dramatically and sadly highlights the problem of deaths in custody nationally", says Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee spokesperson Ray Jackson. They also highlight "the absolute lack of proper daily utilisation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations", he said.

Since June 16, three deaths have occurred in South Australian jails (five since January 1), two in NSW as an outcome of a high speed car chase by police (five since January 1) and one in Queensland, the hanging of Mark Couchy. The national total is at least 75 since May 1989.

According to Jackson, at least 19 royal commission recommendations were breached or ignored in the SA cases, and there are probably breaches in the Queensland cases also.

"We appear to be having a dialogue with the deaf", he said. "Nothing we say seems to make any difference to those in control of the police and the prisons ... Governments must clearly recognise why the royal commission was held and take charge of the recommendations."