The core issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody

I just posted this on a thread on “The Bush Telegraph” (see blogroll) and I thought I’d put it here too since I was near a computor.

There has been a lot of talk about the Royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody and how its reccomendations have been largely ignored. The police unions present push to implement some reccomendations such as video cameras in watchhouses is in line with the other reccomendations that actually were adhered to – those that provide proffessional protection to police and prison officers. As soon as the RCIADIC had finished, prison and watch house cells around the nation were redesigned to minimise a prisoners capacity to take their own life and of course, the officer’s and state’s liability in such a death. The only other thing other than tinkering with cell design has been the implementation of Aboriginal sentencing courts such as the Murri and Koori courts that can only be accessed by way of a guilty plea. Murri court simply fast tracks people into the criminal system and provides a clear inducement to plead guilty – that is to concur with the police officers version of events surrounding the persons arrest.

There has been no advances, and few RCIADIC reccomendations about how to deal with racist and sadistic attitudes, or at least negligent attitudes, on the part of the police on the street, which is the biggest single cause of the massive over representation of Aboriginal people in prisons, especially youth prisons.

It is the hostile reality of street level contact between the police and Aboriginal people that is the essential problem that the RCIADIC failed to address (though it did allude to it) and has not even been recognised as a problem by state authorities since then. Beatties consistent attitude to Aboriginal policy, which has been limited to the single issue of alcoholism for the past 4 years, has been to increase police powers and numbers in Aboriginal communities.

Until the police begin to withdraw from Aboriginal communities and law and order issue are managed by Aboriginal authorities then there will continue to be massive incarceration and death in custody rates.

Aboriginal law and order strategies will need resources such as vehicles, diversionary centres, healing programs and of course wages for trained and respected law men and women.

This, I believe is the only way to effectively deal with the systematic criminalisation, assault and killing of Aboriginal people.

Tinkering around the edges of police training and watch house protocol justifies the demands on government and police to be seen to be doing something about the situation but only exists as a diversion of energy, resources and most importantly creativity from real solutions to deeply engrained problems in the nature of the Queen’s law and her officers.


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