South Australian custody issues now under spotlight

A legal rights group has called on the South Australian government to urgently address issues affecting Indigenous people in custody following the death of a 29-year-old man on Monday.

Wayne Morrison died early on Monday morning after a brawl with guards at Yatala Labour Prison in Adelaide on Friday.

The Adelaide-based Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement yesterday said Mr Morrison had been on remand waiting for a home detention bail inquiry report and had not been convicted of any charges.

In a statement ALRM chief executive Cheryl Axleby said Mr Morrison’s family wanted to highlight that he was a “person of great integrity” and it was the first time he had been in custody.

She said ALRM had been told police were advised that Mr Morrison had been assaulted before he was arrested and needed medical assistance.

“The family are concerned that Mr Morrison was not provided with medical assistance prior to being taken to the police cells or while he was in custody at the police cells,” she said. “The family are also concerned that the assault allegations were not investigated or any individuals charged.”

Ms Axleby said Mr Morrison’s death highlighted concerns about the South Australian government’s ability to fulfil its duty of care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in custody.

She said ALRM wanted a transparent inquiry into the death, action to prevent further deaths and for the government to urgently address overcrowding in prisons, the over-representation of Aboriginal people in custody and for more resources to help Indigenous people in custody.

In July, 36-year-old Rebecca Maher became the first Aboriginal death in police custody in New South Wales since 2000. Her death will be investigated by the NSW coroner.

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