NSW holds highest number of Indigenous deaths in custody

NSW holds highest number of Indigenous deaths in custody for 2019-20

New South Wales is the most lethal place to be an Indigenous person in prison, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

However, with six Indigenous deaths in custody in 2021 so far, the State has already outnumbered last years data.

A lethal state

Between 2019-20, New South Wales held the highest number of deaths in prison custody, and the highest number of Indigenous deaths in custody.

Protest over black deaths in custody in Sydney
Protest over Black Deaths in Custody in July 2020

New South Wales had 42 deaths in custody, five of which were Indigenous.

The death rate in New South Wales prisons is also the highest since 2001-2 with .23 deaths per 100 prisoners.

By July 2021, New South Wales had already increased the number of Indigenous deaths from the previous year. 

On 2 March, a 35-year-old Indigenous man died at Long Bay Prison Hospital, after being found unresponsive in a cell.

March 5 saw officers find a 44-year-old Indigenous woman unresponsive in her cell at Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre.

On 18 March, 37-year-old Indigenous man Anzac Sullivan died in a police pursuit in Broken Hill, NSW.

In April, a 37-year-old Indigenous man was unresponsive in his cell at Cessnock Correctional Centre, NSW.

On July 8, 43-year-old Ngemba man Frank Coleman was unresponsive in his cell.

Indigenous deaths in custody

Indigenous people are more likely to die in custody as a proportion of the general population, according to the report.

Indigenous deaths in custody graphBetween 2019 and 2020, Australia marked the equal highest number of deaths in prison custody since 1979-80. The AIC attributed this to the increasing prison population.

Sixteen Indigenous people died in custody between 2019 and 2020.

“Indigenous people were less likely than non-Indigenous people to die as a proportion of relevant prisoners, but more likely to die as a proportion of the relevant general population.

Notably, between 2018-19 and 2019-20, the number of Indigenous deaths in prison custody decreased by three.

“In 1991, the RCIADIC concluded that Indigenous persons were no more likely to die in custody than non-Indigenous persons, but were significantly more likely to be arrested and imprisoned,” the AIC reported.

“The same remains true today. “

However, three in four of those deaths were due to natural causes.

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