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Hot prisons undermine justice system


NAAJA believes the real story that undermines the justice system in the NT is the mass incarceration of Aboriginal people in over-crowded, hot prisons that contributed to this week’s riot at the Alice Springs prison.

The riot indicates there is an urgent need to divert people from prison with new programs and changes to the bail laws.

Of the 2200 prisoners in the NT justice system, 1900 are Aboriginal people and 40% are on remand and waiting in prison for a trial, or to be sentenced.

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.

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 need to support people with employment, education, health, and training. It’s an evidence-based approach that reduces re-offending.

It’s very expensive to lock people up and it doesn’t make the community safer, nor does it address the on-going problems of poverty and despair.

NAAJA calls on the NT Government to urgently convene a Justice Reinvestment Summit consider options like Community Courts, return-to-country programs, and family support.

Darryl Pearce, A/CEO North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA)


  1. You have been charged with a serious offence but you are innocent.
    Your request for bail has been denied.
    You are one of the 41% of inmates on remand in stinking hot conditions.
    You have been on remand for six months with no end in sight.
    You have seen a solicitor once and made numerous requests for another visit that have been ignored.
    The legal service is overwhelmed.
    If you plead guilty to the charge you could get a hearing date much quicker and with time served you may be freed quicker than if you hold out.
    We now have a situation that is very common in the USA.
    Accept a plea bargain offer and get out of jail quicker than holding out for a court hearing.
    None of this is the fault of NT Corrections desperately trying to staff their near or overcapacity prison.
    Our justice system is broken.

  2. @ Darryl Pearce, relax. Things can only get better. No news on the egg-nishner (ref Afferbeck Lauder ‘Strine’) front, but the NT Police are training two cute Alsatian puppies to sniff out and apprehend alleged law breakers.
    Only one problem: Where will they warehouse the additional apprehended people when they serve lengthy periods on remand?

  3. @ Susan: I must apologise for my flippant post and thank you for your post.
    The situation many of my Warlpiri friends find themselves in and you so accurately describe encompasses a presumption of guilt and becomes self fulfilling.

  4. @ John: Isn’t it more like: Don’t be charged with a crime and you won’t do the time (in very hot conditions).
    Is every single one of the 267 prisoners on remand at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre guilty?

  5. John, I assume from your post that the residents of Rivergum Apartments are victims of crime.
    Rephrasing the question: Have 267 prisoners on remand all been involved in criminal activities against Rivergum Apartments?
    I suggest you read Susan’s contributions again and think about them.

  6. OK, so I’ve just read about that heinous vandalism at the apartments, hope they catch all the perpetrators, promptly apply due process and lock them up.
    A bit pedantic perhaps, but one thing we can be sure of: none of the 267 prisoners on remand were involved.

  7. Frank. You should have been in town a few hours ago and seen what the people from your area were up to. [Submitted January 19, 13:34 – ED]

  8. The lack of cooling / heating with extreme temperatures contributes to serious problems. Such lack of care needs be a breach for employment / health standards for work, is it that prisoners are denied these standards?
    The suitable air conditioning needs to be installed now, not in another year.


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