Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA) Inc., August 2016

We agree with Marcia Langton (July) that the Australian justice system tolerates, if not encourages, the femicide of Aboriginal women, but she asks a sobering question of activist groups such as the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, which is: do our efforts inadvertently contribute to condoning this violence? We advocate for decarceration in response to “tough on crime” policing, which targets offences against property and anti-social behaviour and has contributed to an increasing number of people convicted of such minor offences being held in our prisons. One point we would add to Langton’s article is that prison overcrowding has a detrimental effect on any rehabilitative programs, making recidivism more likely.

Family violence is not targeted in “tough on crime” political agendas. Decarceration goes hand in hand with justice reinvestment, such that the huge sum of money spent on corrective services is instead directed into community-driven solutions to violence. It is necessary that the criminal justice system steps in, in cases of violence against women, but this alone does not change violent behaviour, and survivors of violence often need support beyond this redress. Of the women in prison in Western Australia, half of whom are Aboriginal, more than 90% have been assaulted at some time in their lives. Why do these women end up in prison?

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (WA) Inc.
Cannington, WA