Greens to Re-Open Inquiry Into Restraining People With Cognitive Impairment in Detention
3 August 2016 at 3:37 pm
Western Australia’s re-elected Greens Senator Rachel Siewert will move to restart an inquiry into the indefinite detention of people with cognitive impairment.
Siewert, whose re-election to the Senate was only confirmed on Tuesday, said given that details have resurfaced of a restraint chair being used on an Aboriginal man with cognitive impairment, it made it even more essential that the inquiry be restarted.
ABC News reported on Wednesday that the United Nations Human Rights Council was being asked to investigate the case of an intellectually disabled Aboriginal man who had been repeatedly strapped to a restraint chair in an Alice Springs prison.
The report said the 25-year-old man was being held in the maximum security wing of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre and had allegedly been forcibly restrained in a chair and sedated on about 17 occasions since 2012.
The Senate inquiry lapsed because of the double dissolution election. The Senate had already completed two public hearings in Brisbane and Melbourne.
The latest allegations come on the heels of the announcement of a royal commission into the Northern Territory youth justice system following a damning ABC Four Corners report. The report revealed footage of a 17 year old strapped into a mechanical restraint chair in the Don Dale detention facility, along with a series of other videos, showing the repeated stripping, assault and mistreatment of him and other boys.
Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs made a report to the federal government in 2014 about the case of the 25-year-old Alice Springs man identified as KA in which she said: “I have found that the Commonwealth failed to take measures to work with the Northern Territory to provide accommodation and other support services, other than accommodation in a maximum security prison, for people with intellectual disabilities who are unfit to plead to criminal charges.”
In response to the latest involvement of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Senator Rachel Siewert said: “We know that the restraint chair is being used on people with cognitive impairment in detention and this must be urgently investigated by the Senate inquiry that I will move to resume.
“It is outrageous that the federal government and particularly the Attorney General Senator Brandis has known about this type of abuse for a number of years.
“In brushing off this treatment, the federal government has turned its back on people with disability. This appalling treatment needs the federal government’s urgent attention.
“We must investigate the restraint of people with cognitive impairment in detention, a method rejected by the community.
“Evidence is showing that corrections legislation needs to be amended in order to provide the same level of checks and balances around the use of restraints. The correctional system should have to meet the same standards as disability services when it comes to people in their facilities.
“I look forward to pursuing this inquiry and shedding some light on this issue. Prisons are not the place for people with cognitive impairment who are found unfit to plead.”