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Elizabeth

Elizabeth GRANT

Year of Award: 2008 Award State: South Australia Legal > Penal And Parole
To investigate the design of correctional facilities for Indigenous prisoners - New Zealand, Canada, Denmark
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The design of environments for Australian Aboriginal offenders has always been problematic. The needs and concerns of Aboriginal prisons have been little understood and prison environments have often not served the needs of prisoners resulting in incidences of deaths in custody, self-harming and resistance behaviours. Australian Aboriginal prison populations continue to grow and the importance of providing custodial environments to meet the varying and diverse needs of these groups of prisoners is important. Within the fellowship I wished to view Indigenous custodial facilities across a number of countries to assess whether there were common needs and preferences among Indigenous prisoner populations and find innovation in prison design which could be applied to the Australian context.
This report documents that Indigenous prisoners in other countries have common concerns shared by many Australian Aboriginal prisoners. The prison location, the ability to live within a social group, staying in contact with family and community were all common concerns.

The normalisation of prison environments appears to have a major effect on the behaviour of prisoners within prisons. Theoretically it has been shown that normalising prison environments results in fewer instances of resistance behaviours (e.g. escapes, threatening behaviours, riots, suicides and self-harming behaviours) among prisoners. The level of critical incidences reported in Danish prisons was low. Within the design of prisons a variety of techniques were used to normalise prison environments successfully. These are underpinned by a legislative framework which ensures a minimum standard of prison accommodation.

The design of different types of Indigenous units has been pioneered in New Zealand and Canada successfully. These have involved specific design processes which allow Indigenous communities to partner with correctional agencies to achieve mutual aims and all have involved the incorporation of cultural knowledge into the design or later enculturation of the prison environment. There were some accompanying issues in the design of Indigenous specific facilities. Most had a minimum security classification excluding numbers of Indigenous prisoners and the issues of housing certain groups of prisoners was proving problematic at some sites. There is much that can learnt from these examples for application to the Australian context.

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