Indigenous Women in Prisons

In Australia, Indigenous women are overrepresented in prisons. The number of indigenous female prisoners in NSW has increased by 230% from 1998-2009. In comparison, the number of non-indigenous female prisoners has risen by 43%.

High incarceration rates are partly attributed to practices adopted by police authorities. This involves stationing a large number of police at largely indigenous populated areas. This generates a higher level of surveillance on Indigenous groups.

In addition, on average indigenous women serve shorter sentences than their non-indigenous counterparts. This suggests that they are being imprisoned for minor offences, such as alcohol related offences, and that imprisonment is not being used as a last resort.

The high level of incarceration occurs in the context of family violence, over-policing for selected offences, poor health, unemployment and poverty. Overall indigenous women have a double disadvantage, namely race and gender. To overcome these issues the law must recognise that indigenous women in particular are socially and economically oppressed. Many of the services that are currently provided for the Indigenous prison community are tailored towards indigenous men. Until the law recognises these rights, indigenous women will be continue to be treated unjustly.


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