Rattenbury slammed for ‘sorry’ Aboriginal prison record

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CORRECTIVE Services Minister Shane Rattenbury has been slammed for overseeing a 135 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal people imprisoned in the ACT.

Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury.

This follows the minister’s announcement yesterday of a $1.3 million payment to Aboriginal organisations over three years to establish programs for offenders, detainees and ex-detainees to tackle the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system. Money will be directed to the “Front Up”, “Circle Sentencing Court Support” and “Throughcare Support” and “Yarning Circles for Justice” programs.

In making the announcement, Minister Rattenbury conceded that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprised 1.9 per cent of the ACT population but currently made up 22 per cent of the ACT’s prison population.

Former chief minister and adviser to the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Narrabundah Jon Stanhope welcomed “any proposal to reduce the massive over representation of Aboriginal people in prison in the ACT”, but said that under the Minister’s leadership the ACT had the highest relative rate of indigenous incarceration in Australia.

“An Aboriginal person in Canberra is more than 20 times likely to be locked up than a non-Aboriginal person. A rate higher than even the NT or WA,” Stanhope wrote in a comment to citynews.com.au

“Minister Rattenbury has been the Minister for Corrective Services for over six years now and in that time he has overseen a 135 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal people locked up at the AMC.

“As shocking as this record of incarceration of Aboriginal people in Canberra certainly is, it is compounded by the fact that the recidivism rate of Aboriginal people currently in prison in Canberra is over 90 per cent.

“This sorry record suggests that there is something seriously wrong with rehabilitation programs within the prison and with the much vaunted ‘Throughcare’ program.

“So far as Aboriginal detainees are concerned [such] programs have clearly been a dismal failure. In fact it would be interesting to get the Minister’s view on whether in his time as minister he can point to a single success in any aspect of the administration of Corrective Services.”

In an “interesting coincidence”, Stanhope said it was reported today that the ACT had maintained its record as one of the worst performing jurisdictions in Australia when it comes to child protection.

“The ACT produced over the last 12 months the largest increase in the relative rate of placement of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care with an Aboriginal child in Canberra over 16 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than a non-Aboriginal child,” he said.

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