Criminalising disability: Federal leadership required to end the indefinite detention of people with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment
The Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs tabled its report on the Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment Tuesday evening. The report makes 32 recommendations with a focus on law reform and coordinated policies and programs to support people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment outside the criminal justice system.
Damian Griffis, CEO First Peoples Disability Network (FPDN) said: “The ongoing and indefinite imprisonment of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment is a serious abuse of human rights. We welcome the senate inquiry report and commend the senate for turning its attention to this issue. It is critical that swift action is taken in order to end the incarceration of people with disability and to provide appropriate support and services as an alternative to jail.”
Scott Avery, Research and Policy Director FPDN said: “By the time an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person with disability comes into contact with the criminal justice system, they will most likely have had a life of unmanaged disability. When disability is not recognised and addressed, contact with the police and courts are inevitable steps on a matriculation pathway into juvenile detention and prison.”
FPDN and La Trobe Law School were co-coordinators of the First Peoples Disability Justice Consortium’s submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Indefinite Detention of People with Cognitive and Psychiatric Impairment, which provided Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives on the recurrent and indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment. The First Peoples Disability Justice Consortium is an alliance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations, disability, justice and legal researchers, Universities and Research Institutes.
Professor Patrick Keyzer from La Trobe University, co-coordinator of the Consortium, said: “The Commonwealth should implement all of the recommendations of the Senate Report, working closely and effectively with the States and Territories to assist these incredibly vulnerable people”.
Karly Warner, Executive Officer, NATSILS said: “The criminal justice system is increasingly and inappropriately being used as a default care provider for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, who have been forced into the criminal justice system early in life in the absence of alternative pathways,”
“Australia’s practices and policies towards people with a disability in the justice system fall short of international standards and Australia’s human rights obligations and, as a result, soaring numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability are cycling through the justice system where they are vulnerable a range of things including physical mistreatment, financial exploitation, and inappropriate decisions being made on their behalf.”
Scott Avery said: “Lasting solutions can be developed by bringing experts from both disability and justice together, standing side by side in all parts of the process.”
The First Peoples Disability Justice Consortium will be reviewing all the recommendations with a view to developing a plan for implementation and calls on Australian Governments to:
- Develop and support culturally-responsive, therapeutic and non-punitive sentencing and service outcomes other than prison for people with cognitive impairment
- Provide support for early assessment, diagnosis, support and intervention (including in the juvenile justice system) that prevents criminalisation and that is capable of identifying and addressing root causes of offending/anti-social behaviour.
- Engage in systematic, targeted, uniform, human-rights focused law reform that acknowledges individual needs
- Maintain political will and public sector leadership that is sorely needed to respond to the crisis of overrepresentation of indigenous people with cognitive impairment in the criminal justice system
- Develop more effective and properly supported policies and programs to identify and recognise people with cognitive impairment by the justice system
- Raise public awareness and knowledge in the community, within and across the criminal justice system and service systems to better understand why and how indigenous people with cognitive impairment come into contact with the criminal justice system.
The Indefinite detention of people with cognitive and psychiatric impairment in Australia senate report is available online.
FIRST PEOPLES DISABILITY JUSTICE CONSORTIUM prepared a detailed submission to the senate inquiry. It is available online.