Indigenous prisoner numbers to jump


By 2025 one in two Australian prisoners will be Aboriginal unless generational disadvantage is addressed now, a prison reform expert warns.

Indigenous Australians currently make up about a quarter of the national prison population despite comprising only three per cent of the total population.

Researcher Gerry Georgatos estimates that within eight years, two out of three prisoners in Western Australia will be indigenous, and in the Northern Territory it will edge near the 100 per cent mark.

On Monday the ABC revealed Darwin's adult jail population - 84 per cent of which are Aboriginal - reached a record high in April.

"If governments fail to invest to transform the lives of prisoners and former inmates, (more) prisons will be built," Mr Georgatos said.

Mr Georgatos says while education is the key to breaking the cycle of crime, very few indigenous inmates have completed Year 12, and he wants to overhaul schooling inside correctional facilities.

Not only would inmates gain qualifications with increased educational programs, but they will also be psycho-socially validated and strengthened, which in turn reduces trauma, he said.

Without action, Mr Georgatos predicts Aboriginal suicide and incarceration rates - already among the highest in the world - will worsen.

"The nation should weep, but more importantly should act, when 80 per cent of suicides of children aged 12 years and (under are Aboriginal)," he said.

The suicide prevention advocate said nearly 40 per cent of indigenous people remain trapped below the poverty line, leaving them highly vulnerable to aberrant behaviour.

"Prisons are filled with the low-level offending borne of the tsunami of poverty-related issues," he said.

"If we do not respond to the elevated risk groups then we are discriminating, we are leaving them behind to rot."