The recent deaths of several Australia Aboriginal prisoners in custody has sparked fresh criticism over the state's perceived failure to heed longstanding recommendations of a royal commission on the issue.
The death of several Australian Aborigines who have died in prison or police custody around the country recently has underscored the disproportionately high percentage of Aborigines among the country’s incarcerated – a result in part of overcrowded housing and low education rates that go hand in hand with violence and petty crime. But discrimination is also to blame, say critics.
The picture is especially bleak for young indigenous people, who are 28 times more likely to end up in juvenile detention according to the latest official figures. In one notorious case last November, police charged a 12-year-old boy in Western Australia with receiving a chocolate frog allegedly stolen from a supermarket.
Aboriginal adults are six times more likely to be arrested than other Australians and 13 times more likely to be jailed. In the Northern Territory, they make up 80 percent of the prison population although only one-third of the territory’s residents are indigenous.
A young man named Mulrunji Doomadgee, of Palm Island off Queensland’s coast, was one such Australian Aborigine who was caught up in the criminal justice system. Arrested for drunkenness and swearing, he was found dead in a cell after a struggle with the policeman who had brought him in, Chris Hurley.
Critics say Doomadgee’s offense is precisely the type that does not warrant automatic arrest and imprisonment.