Indefinite detention and the overrepresentation of people with cognitive disability in the criminal justice system will be examined when the Disability Royal Commission holds its next public hearing in Brisbane from 16-25 February, 2021.
This hearing will consider the need for the provision of proper supports to people with disability in detention.
“Research suggests that imprisonment rates for people with cognitive disability, especially First Nations people with cognitive disability, are far higher than for the general population,” says Disability Royal Commission Chair Ronald Sackville OA QC.
Mr Sackville points out that understanding what happens to people with disability within the nation’s justice systems, especially those with cognitive disabilities, is a sensitive, but important topic for examination.
The hearing will explore whether there are more effective approaches to crime prevention and the rehabilitation of offenders than the ‘criminalisation of disability’.
The hearing will also hear of the experiences of people with extremely complex needs who have been detained indefinitely without necessarily having been convicted of an offence, (for example, because of unfitness to plead).
In one case to be considered during the Brisbane hearing, a court described the conditions of confinement as ‘degrading and inhumane’.
The hearing will examine a range of issues, including:
Factors contributing to first encounters of people with cognitive disability with the criminal justice system
Factors which can contribute to people with cognitive disability cycling in and out of the criminal justice system
How the criminal justice system can criminalise disability
The overrepresentation of First Nations people with cognitive impairment within the criminal justice system, and factors which may contribute to this
The long term or indefinite detention of people with cognitive impairment under forensic custody orders
The impact that diversion programs and the provision of appropriate supports for people with disability can have in reducing contact with the criminal justice system and in moving away from the criminalisation of disability
Mr Sackville says the hearing is likely to challenge widely-held preconceptions in the community as to the causes of crime, the composition of the prison population and the best ways of promoting community safety.
The hearing will be closed to the public because of COVID-19, but will be live-streamed on the Royal Commission website.