A high fence around Darwin Correctional Centre. The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency is calling for the early release of some Aboriginal prisoners from NT prisons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A high fence around Darwin Correctional Centre. The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency is calling for the early release of some Aboriginal prisoners from NT prisons in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Calls for release of NT prisoners amid coronavirus crisis

THE North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) is calling for the early release of low-risk, vulnerable prisoners in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

NAAJA principal legal officer David Woodroofe said the organisation was calling on the NT Government to release indigenous prisoners who were near the end of their sentences for less serious offending.

He said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more vulnerable to the virus due to higher rates of chronic health conditions including diabetes, kidney disease, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease.

 

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"The highest proportion of people in NT prisons are Aboriginal people," Mr Woodroofe said.

"What NAAJA is calling for … for both the Alice Springs and Darwin prisons, is for the early release of prisoners who are incarcerated for less serious convictions, who are high risk and near the completion of their sentences."

He said female Aboriginal prisoners especially should be released early.

"Aboriginal women in prison are mostly victims of family violence … or are incarcerated for lesser type poverty offending, traffic and property offending," he said.

It comes after the NSW Attorney-General announced yesterday that the state's Corrective Services Commissioner had been granted new powers to release of some of the state's 13,000 prisoners early.

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Speakman said prisons would "prioritise vulnerable offenders and others who pose a low risk to the community for consideration for conditional release".

During question time in parliament on Tuesday, NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said Corrections Comminer Scott McNairn had put measures in place to protect prisoners including suspending all social visits to NT correctional centres from Wednesday.

"As we see the coronavirus pandemic and the impact in the Northern Terry spread further, we will take further measures within our correctional facilities to protect both them and Territorians broadly," Ms Fyles said.

 

 

During question time in parliament on Tuesday, NT Attorney-General Natasha Fyles said Corrections Comminer Scott McNairn had put measures in place to protect prisoners including suspending all social visits to NT correctional centres from Wednesday.

"As we see the coronavirus pandemic and the impact in the Northern Terry spread further, we will take further measures within our correctional facilities to protect both them and Territorians broadly," Ms Fyles said.

Social visits to youth correction centres will continue but with added precautions.

Mr Woodroofe also said that prisoners who were released in the NT should either be returned safely to their communities or housed if they do not have accommodation.

"People held in prison have the same basic rights as all people," he said.

"The government must ensure people in our prisons have the same access to medical care in these extreme times.

"This is the time, we must take action."

 

 

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Originally published as Calls for release of NT prisoners amid coronavirus crisis



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