re: Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

Robert_Iseman (
Mon, 23 Oct 1995 23:11:28 +0900

Dear List Members,
In response to Harry Oxley's comments about "Aboriginal Deaths in Custody"-->
This position "that the frequency of suicide" is little different is a
point well taken and needs to be more carefully sorted out. My guess is the
"frequency" does not differ very much from suicides in custody in general.
Harry is correct in suggesting that this variable be explored before making
assumptions about what is going on.
This having been done it would beg the more interesting question to assume
that "aboriginal death in custody" was not to some degree a unique
phenomenon worth exploring through the tools of PCP. We would not note the
frequency of shoplifting by women between the ages of 70 and 80 and assume
it was the result of the same social and developmental forces at play in
"teen-age shoplifting". Many violent, angry and depressed young people end
up in custody because the mental health system in Australia is in chaos and
this may be a contributing factor in the frequency of "suicide" in custody
generally. At an anecdotal and naive level there is a "perception" that too
many young aboriginal men who do not fit any "at risk" criteria die while
in custody. While brutal treatment at the hands of police is certainly a
contributing factor there is a wide open field here for further study.

Robert Iseman
University of South Australia