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NSW Prisons Are Full Of Aboriginal Men, Women And Kids

The number of Indigenous people being locked up continues to skyrocket.

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The number of Indigenous people behind bars in New South Wales has climbed to 18% in the past year, the latest NSW custody report reveals.

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"Right now, we're going backwards. Unfortunately, NSW is not alone in rising rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment. This is an issue throughout the country," says Shane Duffy from the National Justice Coalition.

The numbers in the quarterly custody report by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) represent people in custody between October 2014 and September 2015.

Overall the number of Aboriginal men and women in prisons has been on the rise over the past two years, increasing by 20%.

Duffy said incarceration is an outrageous waste of money and urged authorities to invest in preventative measures rather than punitive ones.

"It is incredibly expensive to imprison someone and all the evidence shows that overall it isn't an effective means of either rehabilitation or deterrence," Duffy said.

"If we really want our communities to be safer, we need to start investing in prevention and early intervention strategies that are designed and led by local communities."

The spike in numbers can be attributed to a swift growth of people being placed into remand, meaning they're held in custody until being seen in court, over the past year.

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"Normally, the number of remand prisoners tapers off from April to August but there has been no sign of that this year. The surge in remand numbers has also been followed by a surge in the number of sentenced prisoners," BOCSAR Director Don Weatherburn says.

"Given the usual surge in the number of prisoners on remand over the Christmas-New Year period, we can expect further rapid increases in the number of people in prison".

Indigenous kids are also being locked up at record rates.

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The report also revealed that out of the 289 juvenile offenders currently in custody in NSW a staggering 150 of them are Indigenous.

The rising Indigenous rate bucks the overall trend of juvenile people being placed into detention, which has seen a decrease of 7% over the past two years.

Around the country, Indigenous people are at higher risks of being incarcerated.

Despite Indigenous people making up just 2% of the Australian population, they make up more than 27% of the nation’s prison population. In the Northern Territory alone, 90% of the prison population is Aboriginal.

Half of the juvenile detention population across the country identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

In April, sixteen of the country’s leading Indigenous welfare and legal groups, known as the National Justice Coalition, launched the “Change the Record” campaign to lobby state and federal governments in investing in early interventions programs.

Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said at the time that the situation had become a full-blown crisis.

“I’ve got to invent new adjectives to describe what we’ve got at the moment; disaster, emergency. The government’s got to start listening to us,” Gooda said.

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Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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