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    Linda Shields

    The Australian College of Children and Young People’s Nurses has come out strongly in support of the proposed Royal Commission. But more information emerging about the mistreatment of children – and indeed adults – in the prisons system is emerging, e.g. the news last night contained a story about a man with an intellectual disability being held in a restraint chair has been reported to the UN:
    We should not be surprised by much of this. In the 1970s and 1980s, in a well intentioned movement world-wide, institutions for people with mental illnesses and intellectual disabilities were closed down and the people moved into community care. But as governments (at least in Australia) are bad at seeing the need for, and funding, community health, primary health care and support services for such people, they have been lost. Our prisons have become the only places to send many people. Prisons are places of incarceration, not hospitals. They do not have the capacity, nor the education and training for staff, to care for people who are mentally ill – and nor should they – that is not their function.
    We must call on all Australia governments to seriously examine how services for mentally ill and disabled people are provided – how many end up in prison because there is nowhere else to go – and call for greatly increased funding to provide appropriate and adequate services for people with mental illnesses and disabilities who need care, not incarceration.
    This is one of Australia’s great shames.


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