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Two prisoners found dead – Silverwater

April 1st, 2013

Incarceration rates - State by State

Incarceration rates – State by State

The bodies of two prisoners were found in a cell at Sydney’s maximum security prison – Silverwater. It has been revealed the two men were aged 41 and 47 years.

The prisoners’ bodies were discovered in their cells at the Metropolitan Remand and Reception Centre at 6:15am Australian eastern standard time. The discovery followed the morning count of prisoners.

It has been reported that there was no blood spilled inside their cell however police are investigating the deaths at this time as either a murder-suicide or as a double-suicide.

Post-mortem examinations are underway.

The two men had been remanded on drug offences.

Silverwater Metropolitan and Remand Reception Centre incarcerates 900 inmates and is one of four facilities at the Silverwater Correctional Complex.

In terms of proportion to population Australia has one of the world’s worst prison deaths in custody records. On average there are 70 deaths per year in Australian prisons. Australia has a prison suicide average nearly double the prison suicide averages of England and Wales, proportional to prison populations. On average just over 80 per cent of prison deaths are of people non-Aboriginal and nearly 20 per cent of Aboriginal peoples.

Various research has confirmed that in the first year post-release from prison there is on average a death a day – and up to 500 deaths of former prisoners in the first year post-release.

Prisoner Officer Unions are warning of overcrowded conditions in prisons in every jurisdiction in the nation which lead to tensions for both prison officers and inmates. Between 1992 to 2012 the Australian prison population has doubled from 15,000 to 31,000 however the Australian population in that time has not significantly increased.

In the Northern Territory prisoners are sleeping on cell floors in deplorable conditions according to the NT Prison Officer Association (NTPOA). More than 80 per cent of the NT prison population comprises Aboriginal peoples – and the maltreatment and oppressive conditions contribute to illness, anger and even reoffending once out – people are leaving prison worse than when they went in.

Last year NTPOA spokesperson Phil Tilbrook said these third-world conditions cannot be allowed to continue. He described Darwin and Alice Springs prisons as the “worst” with dormitories approximately five by ten metres housing up to 12 to 14 prisoners and with only one toilet.

“You’ve got prisoners living in third-world conditions. We’ve got mattresses on the floor and prisoners sleeping within one metre of a toilet that 14 other prisoners have to use,” said Mr Tilbrook.

In April the Territory Government announced that 189 more beds will be provided and another prison built by 2014 with a holding capacity of 800 however this is not enough said Mr Tilbrook.

“The potential for prisoners to spill out frustration on themselves or on officers is huge. We have seen incidents where hot water is regularly used as a weapon against other prisoners and against officers.”

At the time, Criminal Lawyers Association president, Russell Goldflam said the predicament was one that something had to be done about. He said the Alice Springs prison “is full to the brim” and with “one hundred more prisoners than it was originally built to hold.”

He said the overcrowding has reached the point where some prisoners were being held in police watch houses “to cope with the overflow.”

In Western Australia, former Inspector of Custodial Services (2000 to 2008), Professor Richard Harding criticised incarceration rates.

Last week the Western Australian prison population reached 5,000.

“This is the highest in the State’s history,” said Professor Harding.

This is a 27 per cent increase in four years.

The Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH), the Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) and the Western Australian Network of Alcohol and other Drug Agencies (WANADA) have teamed up together to produce a report on the criminal justice system and they say, “Western Australia is stuck in a rut, when it comes to prisons.”

Link to The Stringer summary of the tripartite report:

It is a rare occurrence for two prisoners to have been found dead or to have even attempted suicide – in the same cell or even on the same day. On February 8 last year two Aboriginal brothers in WA’s Greenough Prison attempted suicide within 12 hours of each other.

Dr Brian Steels, Director of the Asia Pacific Forum for Restorative Justice and coordinator of the Institute for Restorative Justice and Penal Reform in Australia, has advocated for an end to austere punishments such as prison sentences as the major mode of deterring crime. He has called for Problem Courts, healing opportunities and programs and restorative justice and for an end into believing a “penal estate” is the only option for all crime.

–          Impartiality conflict of interest – The writer of this article, Gerry Georgatos, is a prison reform advocate, who has completed two Masters in, and has conducted PhD research into Australian Custodial Systems and Australian Deaths in Custody.


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