Deaths in prison, police custody on the rise
THE number of deaths in both prison and police custody in Australia is on the rise, with all deaths in NT prison custody in the most recent year being of Indigenous people, according to a new report.
The Australian Institute of Criminology released its Deaths in Custody in Australia 2018-19 report last week, which found that there were 89 deaths in prison custody in 2018-19, 17 more than the previous year, and 24 deaths in police custody in 2018-19, three more than in the previous year.
A total of 32 of the people who died in prison custody did so before they had been sentenced for their alleged crime.
Three of those deaths were in the NT, and all three were Indigenous people.
The death rate for Indigenousnos prisoners was highest in Victoria (0.24 per 100 prisoners), followed by the Northern Territory (0.21 per 100 prisoners).
Report authors, Laura Doherty and Samantha Bricknell said although Indigenous prisoners were no more likely to die than non-Indigenous prisoners, the number of deaths were so high because of the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in police and prison custody.
"The Indigenous imprisonment rate was 12 times the rate for non-Indigenous prisoners in 2019, and has increased by 35 per cent since 2009, compared to an increase of 26 per cent for non-Indigenous prisoners," Ms Doherty and Ms Bricknell said.
The majority of deaths in custody were from natural causes (68 per cent) followed by death by suicide and self-harm (20 per cent), external trauma (8 per cent), and abuse of substances (3 per cent).
One of the three deaths in prison custody in that period was of 51-year-old Aboriginal man Ishmael Nalaiyir Nawirridj, who was serving his tenth prison sentence in the Darwin Correctional Centre at the time.
A death in prison custody which will appear in next year's report is that of the NT's first known contract killer, Chris Malyschko, who a coroner heard died from "positional asphyxia" due to use of synthetic cannabis - which was rife in the prison at the time.
NT Corrections Commissioner Scott McNairn said: "Northern Territory Correctional Services is committed to improving and supporting the health and wellbeing of all prisoners, and any death of a prisoner is a tragedy, especially for family and friends."
Originally published as Deaths in prison, police custody on the rise