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A recent Radio National story from the Law Report program, investigated the criminal justice situation in the Northern Territory (NT), which has seen prisoners forced to share overcrowded cells and scarce facilities. In NT prisons, more than 80% of the prison population are Aboriginal Australians.
There is also concern that some offenders who have an intellectual or mental impairment, or who are deaf, are being detained indefinitely due to a loophole in legislation. Some of these offenders are being held under what is called a custodial supervision order, as they are considered unfit to plead.
Mark O'Reilly, the principal legal officer at the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, has a number of clients who have been imprisoned without charge by virtue of this piece of legislation. Mr O'Reilly says that many of these clients end up in a maximum security prison, despite committing relatively minor offences, as they are identified as being 'unable to understand their actions', and therefore a normal court case cannot proceed.
There is no designated psychiatry unit for these offenders, and no other facilities from which they can receive appropriate treatment. These offenders must continue under supervision orders, but the lack of resources means that the only place for them to do so is in prison.
The Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign thinks that there are about 12 to 14 people that are currently incarcerated in Alice Springs jails on custodial supervision orders.
Source: ABC Radio National
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