South Australian Chief Justice calls for Federal Government to back Indigenous justice target By political reporters Anna Henderson http://www.abc.net.au/news/4787636 and Stephanie Anderson http://www.abc.net.au/news/6815894
The Chief Justice of the South Australian Supreme Court has voiced support for adopting a "justice target" to help drive down the number of Indigenous Australians behind bars.
Chief Justice Chris Kourakis believes the measure could help reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in jail, with Indigenous people currently accounting for more than a quarter of prison inmates.
The most recent national data also shows that Indigenous children are 31 times more likely to be in detention.
Chief Justice Kourakis will be among a group of Australia's senior legal representatives for a symposium convened by the Law Council today in an effort to come up with solutions to what has been described as a "national shame".
He told the ABC that state and territory sentencing laws are partly to blame for the growing problem.
"It's true that the tough on crime approach has contributed to over representation," he said.
"Frustration is one response you have, but effectively, courts must sentence according to the law."
However, Chief Justice Kourakis said the Federal Government should take the lead and embrace a justice target for reducing Indigenous imprisonment.
"I think it's important to have targets and they can be scientifically developed and not be arbitrary," he said.
"I think it's very important to have progress in meeting those targets."
The Federal Opposition has waged a long campaign for the justice target, along with the Law Council and the Australian Medical Association.
Scullion and Mundine want focus on cause rather than effect
Last week, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was time for Australia to "face these failures".
"It is time to address this grievous national shame," he said.
But the Turnbull Government's Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion rejected justice targets.
Senator Scullion said the focus should be on addressing the disadvantage that increases the likelihood of offending, a view shared by the head of the Government's Indigenous Advisory Council Warren Mundine.
Mr Mundine told the ABC he was in favour of looking at how to reduce crime rates, saying the focus should be on the cause rather than the effect.
Prisons used as accommodation for people with disability
In Canberra, a parliamentary committee recommended a royal commission into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disability, citing serious concerns over the challenges Indigenous people with a disability experience in engaging with the criminal justice system.
The report tabled by the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee yesterday also voiced concern over the use of prisons as accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with disability.
It referenced the experience of a young Aboriginal man with intellectual disability, who is indefinitely detained in a maximum security prison after being found unfit to plead.
"Dave does not have access to the intensive rehabilitation programs he needs to address the causes of his offending behaviour," it stated.
"He is often isolated in his cell for approximately 16 hours a day, and frequently shackled during periods he is outside his cell."
The committee also recommended further investigation into the access to justice needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander http://www.abc.net.au/news/topic/indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, prisons-and-punishment http://www.abc.net.au/news/topic/prisons-and-punishment, law-crime-and-justice http://www.abc.net.au/news/topic/law-crime-and-justice, health http://www.abc.net.au/news/topic/health, disabilities http://www.abc.net.au/news/topic/disabilities, sa http://www.abc.net.au/news/topic/sa