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In 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which investigated the deaths of 99 Indigenous persons in police or prison custody occurring between January 1980 and May 1989, presented its findings and recommendations. One of the outcomes was the establishment of a National Deaths in Custody Monitoring and Research Program at the Australian Institute of Criminology.
During the period 1990-2002, the majority of deaths (65%) occurred in prison custody, while 34% were in police custody - 18% of all deaths in prison custody were of Indigenous prisoners. During this period, the proportion of the prison population that was Indigenous rose from 14% to 20%. In 1995 the crude death rate of Indigenous prisoners was more than twice that of non-Indigenous prisoners (5.7 and 2.4 respectively). However, in 2002, both the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous death rates were 3.1 per 1,000 prisoners (graph 11.46). The death rate of non-Indigenous prisoners was higher than that of Indigenous prisoners in 1992, 1997 and 1998.