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Issue #1540      21 March 2012

Interim conclusions research into
Deaths in Custody

As my PhD progresses in researching Australian Deaths in Custody I have visited immigration detention centres, adult prisons, interviewed former detainees of the immigration detention centres network and interviewed former prisoners of adult custodial jurisdictions.

My research which is seeking to provide evidence-based recommendations in reducing Australia’s horrific deaths in custody record – police, prison and immigration custodial – is unravelling arguments I would not necessarily have expected I would be including in my work.

That is, that one should not expect an ability or capacity from a former detainee or prisoner who has endured chronic and acute trauma, especially where their thresholds have been “broken”, to be able to recover from it – no matter the intervention and counselling, many may never be able to recover from the trauma(s).

  1. It is clearly evident that people come out of prisons worse than that what they went in.
  2. It is clearly evident that people come out of immigration detention worse than they went in.
  3. It is clearly evident Aboriginal peoples have negative stereotypes of police custodial predicaments reinforced by an experience within a police custodial predicament.
  4. Tragically, it appears that many who are released from prison, custodial and immigration custodial experiences cannot overcome the levels of trauma that have been induced or developed. It appears that there may not be recovery for many traumas – multiple traumas, acute and chronic.
  5. Governments, Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and Corrective Services need to launch fully funded research into trauma and post-trauma related studies of the police, prison and immigration custodial related experiences. My research imputes that we should be moving towards the prevention of trauma and that intervention alone cannot promise remedy.
  6. A separate chapter considers the military emergency response in the Northern Territory as custodial-related, and that the prospect of recovery from the trauma described by Aboriginal peoples of the various imposts upon them by the Commonwealth may not be possible.

Gerry Georgatos

BA (Phil), BA (Med), BA (AIS),
G/Dip (Human Rights Ed), MHumRgts, MA (Social Justice)
Researcher in Australian Deaths in Custody
Journalist – National Indigenous Times, & freelance  

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