In 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which investigated the deaths of 99 Indigenous persons in police or prison custody which had occurred 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 (AIC). The following is based on an analysis of deaths in custody undertaken by the AIC for the periods 1980-89 and 1990-99.
While the number of deaths of Indigenous persons in places of detention increased slightly between the two reference periods (a 5% increase from 110 to 115), there was a notable change in where such deaths occurred. For the period 1980-89, 61% of Indigenous deaths in places of detention were in police custody and 35% were in prison; however, for the period 1990-99, 18% occurred in police custody and 81% in prisons. The 93 Indigenous deaths in prisons represented 18% of all deaths in prisons during 1990-99. Between the same reference periods, there was a 21% increase in the number of non-Indigenous people who died in places of detention.
Apart from deaths in places of detention, deaths in custody also takes into account deaths which occurred in the process of justice operations (such as in the process of attempting to detain suspects or other operations such as sieges). The proportion of deaths of Indigenous persons associated with justice operations was slightly lower than that for deaths in places of detention.
11.28 DEATHS IN CUSTODY, By Indigenous Status - 1980 to 1989 and 1990 to 1999
1980 to 1989
1990 to 1999
|Deaths in places of detention(a) -|
|- Juvenile justice/welfare|
|Deaths in process of justice operations(b) -|
|- Attempt to detain -|
|- Other operations|
|(a) Death, wherever occurring, of a person who is in prison custody, police custody, or detention as a juvenile. Includes causes such as suicide, accidents, accidental hanging, natural causes, homicide, other.|
(b) Death, wherever occurring, of a person who dies or is fatally injured, in the process of police or prison officers attempting to detain that person.
Source: Adapted from tables 1 and 2 in the AIC Trends and Issues Paper No. 203, based on data from the National Deaths in Custody database.