Around the world, the novel coronavirus has spread rapidly throughout many prisons, and in Australia prisoners and their families are anxious about the potential threat from outbreaks here, especially for First Nations inmates.
In the first of two #CroakeyVOICES podcasts funded by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas, Associate Professor Megan Williams, the Research Lead and Assistant Director of the National Centre for Cultural Competence at The University of Sydney, and Cate Carrigan look at the impact of the pandemic on prisoners and their families.
Dr Kris Rallah-Baker, the President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) warns it’s no time to be complacent, saying “It’s definitely not a time to relax around #COVID19. It’s still a real threat in this country. We can’t assume because we’ve got low rates in the community that prisons are safe”.
Rallah-Baker’s concerns are echoed by co-chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, Nerita Waight, who says since the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody, “420 or our people have died in custody. Given they’re at greater risk (due to a prevalence of underlying health conditions), we’re concerned there’s going to be more Aboriginal deaths in prison due to #COVID19”.
“They (the families of prisoners) miss their loved ones desperately. There are really good reasons for stopping (face-to-face) visits but it’s taking a toll”.
Dr Mindy Sotiri, Program Director, Advocacy Research Policy, Community Restorative Centre, Marrickville, NSW.
“The real challenge for the children of prisoners at the moment is the lack of contact and information. They’re really concerned about mum or dad’s wellbeing”.
April Long, National Programs Director, Shine For Kids.
“….I’m just worried that people are going to be killed in custody by corrections officers at this time due to the way that they are transported and restrained …and the lack of healthcare.”
Latoya Aroha Rule, sibling to Wayne Fella Morrison who died after collapsing in a police transport van in 2016.
Also hear an excerpt from the Ear Hustle Podcast from San Quentin Prison, California. https://www.earhustlesq.com/