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Monday, February 4, 2013

Too many Aboriginal people in prisons

Indigenous Australians spending time in prison is so common place, it has almost become a rite of passage to adulthood. Being sent to prison is not a disgrace, far from it.

Indigenous leader Warren Mundine said "It has become the culture - going to jail has become a manhood ceremony. Government has created an indigenous prison system that creates jobs and employment that feed off the suffering of Aboriginal people." 

Warren Mundine

He said governments had poured resources into Aboriginal design of prisons and cultural programs within jails, rather than on keeping children out of them.

Julia Gillard will present the fourth Prime Minister's report on Closing The Gap this week. But there's nothing in it to indicate that the gap between black and white Australians is getting closer, in fact it's just more doom and gloom.  

The rate of indigenous people going to prison has been growing steadily over decades and nobody has the faintest idea how to turn this sad statistic around.  Currently one quarter of males, one third of females and half of juvenile inmates in prisons throughout the country are Aboriginal.

In a report released today, savings to taxpayers of $111,000 for every indigenous offender could be achieved if that person is placed in community-based treatment instead of sending them to prison.

The bottom line seems to be that there are far too many non-violent Aboriginal people in prison simply because they have a drug or alcohol addiction and if they were offered treatment instead, they stand a much better chance of rehabilitation.

Aboriginal people make up only 2.5 per cent of the total Australian population and with the best will in the world and good people in and out of government doing everything they can to help, we are back to square one, again.