Patrick McGee spoke with Damien Carrick on the Law Report on RN, Radio Australia, ABC News Radio on November 10, 2015 about the treatment of offenders with FASD in the Australian court system. The episode, entitled “Indigenous Prisoners and FASD” is available from the ABC RN website and offers insight into the growing awareness about FASD in the criminal justice system in Australia. The conversation is partially based on a recent study headed by Dr. Eileen Baldry (University of New South Wales) in which she found that Indigenous Australians with disabilities are often caught in the criminal justice system due to a lack of appropriate support systems. McGee asserts that the criminal justice system is ill-prepared to handle offenders with disabilities. He acknowledges that there are more effective ways of managing this issue, but that they are at the levels of intervention and diversion programs, as well as finding ways to encourage jurisdictional cooperation between disability services and the justice system. McGee points out that this is an issue that has emerged in Canada and the United States as well, but he feels that Australia has fallen behind in terms of awareness and responses. Listen to the episode at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/indigenous-prisoners/6923270#transcript.
This issue was also recently addressed within the Canadian context at a conference in Regina, Saskatchewan on November 17, 2015. A panel comprised of Saskatchewan-based professors including Michelle Stewart, Robert Henry, and Jason Demers discussed incarceration rates in Canada. Indigenous offenders and offenders with FASD were specifically discussed, as were community-based alternative options to incarceration. International awareness of the intersection of FASD and the criminal justice system is growing; however, strategies for alternative treatments and programs are broadly being developed in response. Check out the LeaderPost article “Aboriginal incarceration up 47 per cent at Canada’s federal prisons” and see for yourself (http://www.leaderpost.com/health/aboriginal+incarceration+cent+canada+federal+prisons/11384178/story.html).
Ali McCudden December 19, 2015