Jobs Events Advertise

NAAJA calls out prison conditions as trigger for Alice Springs facility riot

Callan Morse -

The Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency says the "mass incarceration of Aboriginal people in over-crowded, hot prisons" contributed to a recent riot in an Alice Springs facility.

The riot broke out at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre late on Sunday evening after 27 inmates set mattresses alight and broke down doors in a dormitory facility.

National Indigenous Times understands Aboriginal inmates were involved in the riot.

Two inmates and an officer were taken to hospital to treat minor injuries following the incident.

Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) acting chief executive, Darryl Pearce, said the riot showed there is an urgent need to divert people from prison with new programs and changes to the bail laws.

"The justice system is broken in the NT and the underlying social problems are getting worse ... and rehabilitation just isn't possible in crowded, 40-degree prisons without adequate programs, air-conditioning or facilities," Mr. Pearce said.

"Laws and policies in the NT have a discriminatory impact on Aboriginal people and the bail laws need to be changed, to give courts more discretion to grant bail.

"Governments also need to make 'justice re-investments', to spend money on the underlying causes of offending and to support people with employment, education, health, and training. It's an evidence-based approach that reduces re-offending."

According to a 2022 report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are significantly overrepresented in Northern Territory prisons, making up 85 per cent of the total prison population whilst accounting for 26 per cent of the Territory's overall population.

Additionally, both of the Northern Territory's major prisons are heavily populated, with Darwin's prison currently home to 1439 inmates, 391 more than design capacity and Alice Springs' prison currently detaining 680 inmates, 204 more than design capacity.

Mr Pearce said it was expensive to lock people up and it didn't make the community safer, nor did it address the on-going problems of poverty and despair.

He said 40 per cent of the Northern Territory's Indigenous prisoner population were on remand and waiting in prison for a trial, or to be sentenced.

"NAAJA calls on the NT Government to urgently convene a Justice Reinvestment Summit to prevent this mass incarceration of Aboriginal people; and to consider options like Community Courts, return-to-country programs and family support," Mr Pearce said.

In response to NAAJA's calls for intervention, Northern Territory Minister for Justice, Chansey Paech said the Northern Territory Government is addressing the disparity through the Aboriginal Justice Agreement (AJA) whilst agreeing that there is a "gross over-representation of Aboriginal people in NT prisons and youth detention centres".

"Our Government is supporting a new model of delivery towards reducing reoffending and imprisonment rates of Aboriginal Territorians; engaging and supporting Aboriginal leadership; and improving justice responses and services to Aboriginal Territorians," Minister Paech said.

"We are delivering necessary changes that support healthy, responsible, safe and resilient communities such as a range of law reforms, community courts, law and justice groups, alternatives to custody programs, and supported bail accommodation.

"Our Government ensures that Aboriginal Territorians are involved in the governance, oversight and operation of the AJA."


Spotlight on hospital care at Indigenous death inquest
Ricky Hampson Jr was a protector, a big brother known as "Dougie" who always looked for ways to bring his family joy. "Dougie w...
Stephanie Gardiner 25 Feb 2024
'Concerning' NT land council referred to integrity body
The federal government is set to investigate allegations of misconduct at the Anindilyakwa Land Council after a damning audit....
Neve Brissenden 24 Feb 2024
Victorian First Peoples Art and Design Fair looks to bring 'whole gamut' on debut in 2025
Inaugural Victorian First Peoples Arts and Design Fair senior project manager Janina Harding has “big plans” for seeing creative...
Jarred Cross 24 Feb 2024
Rolfe recorded 46 use-of-force incidents during stint
A Northern Territory police officer who shot dead an Indigenous teenager recorded 46 use-of-force incidents between 2016 and 201...
Neve Brissenden 23 Feb 2024

   Callan Morse   

Partner sues prisons over Indigenous inmate's death
A woman is suing the NSW prison system and inmate healthcare service over the death in custody of her partner after a coroner fo...
Duncan Murray 15 Feb 2024
Uluru resort could hit the market as owners mull sale
The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation is exploring options for the Ayers Rock Resort, the only place for tourists to stay when...
Rudi Maxwell 15 Feb 2024
Darlington set for National Indigenous Cricket Championships return
Australian international Hannah Darlington is set to return to the National Indigenous Cricket Championships after being selecte...
Callan Morse 15 Feb 2024
Tasmania to field youthful men’s squad at National Indigenous Cricket Championships
Tasmania has announced a youthful men’s squad for this year’s National Indigenous Cricket Championships, the tournament set to t...
Callan Morse 15 Feb 2024