black deaths in custody. a furphy!

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    Today here in Townsville many people marched to protest the Black deaths in custody.

    The facts as opposd to emotional fiction.
    *39 deaths
    White:29 (74%)
    Black:10 (26%)
    *All deaths are decreasing
    *Black % of prison population is 20%
    *Half of both black and white deaths was self-inflicted
    *The vast majority of Black deaths were in the violen t offender ranks

    Black deaths in custody as a political issue is a furphy.

    Deaths in prison custody
    There were 39 deaths in Australian prison custody during 2003 (see Table 9) - down from the 50 prison deaths recorded during 2002 and the lowest total number of prison deaths since 1992.

    A large proportion of deaths occurred in the jurisdictions where the majority of Australia's prisoners are located - New South Wales recorded 15 deaths, Queensland 12 and Western Australia six deaths (Figure 5). Victoria recorded the lowest number of prison deaths (n=1) since the inception of the NDICP.
    Ten deaths in prison custody were of Indigenous persons (26%) (Figure 6).
    There were no deaths recorded in juvenile detention in Australia during 2003.
    Comparisons with the overall prison population
    According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were 23,555 prisoners in Australia in 2003, and of these, 4,818 were Indigenous (20%) (ABS 2004a). In comparison, there were 10 Indigenous deaths in prison in 2003, representing 26 per cent of all deaths in prison custody. The rate of Indigenous deaths in prison custody in 2003 was 2.1 per 1,000 Indigenous prisoners while the rate of non-Indigenous deaths in prison custody was 1.6 per 1,000 non-Indigenous prisoners. Of the jurisdictions, Queensland recorded the highest rate of Indigenous prison deaths (4.2 deaths per 1,000 prisoners) followed by South Australia (4.1 deaths per 1,000 prisoners) (Figure 6). Figure 7 shows that rates of Indigenous deaths in prison custody peaked in 1995 and that rates of prison deaths have been declining since 2000.

    The ABS figures on prisoners in Australia also show that in 2003, 79 per cent of all prisoners were serving a sentence, while the remaining 21 per cent were unsentenced prisoners on remand (ABS 2004a). Of the 39 prison deaths in Australia during 2003, 25 involved sentenced prisoners, while 14 deceased persons were unsentenced or prisoners on remand, indicating a higher rate of death for those unsentenced prisoners (Table 10). Approximately one third of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners were unsentenced prisoners on remand.

    Circumstances surrounding the death

    Cause of death
    Approximately half of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous deaths were due to hanging while the other half were due to natural causes (Table 13).
    Of the 18 hanging deaths in prison custody, eight persons used bedding materials such as sheets or blankets to hang with. The most common hanging point was a fitting in the cell other than the cell bars, such as a light fitting (n=9).
    There were no prisoners who died as a result of acute alcohol or drug toxicity in prison custody in 2003, the first such result recorded by the NDICP.
    Manner of death
    Half of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous deaths were self-inflicted and half were due to natural causes (Table 14).
    In 2003, there were no deaths in prison as a result of an accident, the first year since 1981.
    Most serious offence
    The majority of Australian prisoners who died during 2003 were incarcerated for violent offences (for example homicide, assault and sex offences) (28 out of 39 deaths) (Table 15). Both non-Indigenous (n=20) and Indigenous (n=8) persons were most often incarcerated for violent offences.

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