[JURIST] Australian officials are abusing prisoners with disabilities, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities are at especially high risk, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported Tuesday.
The report [text], titled, "I Needed Help, Instead I Was Punished": Abuse and Neglect of Prisoners with Disabilities in Australia, set forth findings from research conducted from June 2016 to January 2018, that show people with disabilities experience grave physical, emotional and sexual abuses in Australian prisons. HRW pointed to several factors that cause people with disabilities to be "easy targets", including, among others, lack of prison staff, overcrowding, solitary confinement, lack of proper screening procedures, poor staff training and lack of proper accommodations for basic needs.
The article details prisoners' stories shared with HRW as well as professional opinions from "prison-related and government professionals, mental health experts, academics, lawyers and civil society representatives." The article urges the Australian government to take immediate action to address the situation:
Human Rights Watch calls on state and territory governments to reduce the number of people with disabilities confined in prisons by increasing the availability of community-based disability and mental health resources and providing access to criminal justice diversion programs. State and territory governments should ensure prisons are monitored independently and regularly, with particular attention paid to the concerns of prisoners with a disability.To start, increasing resources and decreasing the number of people with disabilities confined will require more adequate screening procedures in the criminal justice system and proper staff training to identify and treat prisoners with disabilities.