In the Media

Kelly Vincent – Vision Australia Interview on the Wrongful Imprisonment of People with Disabilities

On Wednesday 23rd March 2016, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent was interviewed on Vision Australia radio station to discuss Dignity for Disability’s views on issues concerning people with disabilities being imprisoned. Here is the audio and transcript from the interview.

Pam Green: Time now to welcome to 5RPH, Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent. Hi Kelly.

Kelly Vincent: Hi Pam.

Pam Green: First off today I understand that your office has heard about a situation, a very unsatisfactory situation occurring in regional South Australia. Where a man has affectively been housed in a Mount Gambier prison, what on earth is going on here?

Kelly Vincent: That’s a very good question and we certainly would like to know what is going on here. As I’m sure you and your listeners are probably aware, it’s not uncommon for people with disabilities to serve time in prisons even though they’re not serving time for a crime, they’re simply there because there’s no support available to them in the community including appropriate housing. It’s a breach of our human rights obligation, it’s a breach of our legal obligations particularly article 14 of the United Nations convention on the rights of people with disabilities, which talks about the right of people with disabilities to liberty. So this is against not only our legal obligations but I think every standard of decency that people in South Australia would expect, that people are being held in prison not because they have committed a crime but because the supports including housing aren’t available to them in the community.

Pam Green: But doesn’t this raise like broader systematic issues around disability housing and even the justice system?

Kelly Vincent: Certainly it does and you’re probably aware that unfortunately this man that my office has been in contact about isn’t the first person to experience this. You might be aware of the quite well known case of Marlon Noble. Who was an Aboriginal man, I believe, with intellectual disability. Who was subject to not only imprisonment but also surveillance and supervision after his jail term finished. Despite the fact he was not found guilty of a crime. So this does occur at alarming rates and there is research to suggest that people with disabilities are disproportionately represented in prisons. So this is a systematic issues and we would like to see government agencies including disability SA and housing SA for example as well as the police and corrections systems working together to put in place a state wide plan to ensure this is no longer seen as anywhere near an acceptable solution.

Pam Green: So what do Dignity for Disability think might be a solution, indeed, is there a solution?

Kelly Vincent: Certainly there is. I think the first step, as I just said, accepting or starting to accept point blank that this is not a solution and not accepting this as something that we can do if someone with a disability is facing housing problems. So firstly we need to stop accepting this as a solution. Secondly we need all relevant government departments to work together to find a collaborative cohesive solution. To find better solutions for people and stop putting their own individual department KPI’s ahead of holistic, human rights solutions for residents and the fate of tax payers of this state. Certainly we would like the state government to play very close attention to the evidence that is currently being given to a select senate committee looking into the issue of indefinite imprisonment of people with disabilities. Including the prevalence at which it occurs, the experiences of people with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities in prison and also identifying the needs of people with disabilities including psychiatric and intellectual disabilities to let them stay out of prison. So not only is there a need for a plan to make sure that appropriate solutions happen instead of sending innocent people to prison but also to make sure that people don’t actually get themselves in the situations where they might be sent to prison in the first place. Now of course no one would disagree that there are certain times where a person does the wrong thing and needs to be sent to prison but where a person’s mental health condition or for example intellectual disability means that they might not be aware that they are doing the right thing. We need to make sure people are getting the education and social support to avoid exhibiting that behaviour or committing that offence in the first place. So this goes from everything from government departments working together to find housing solutions but also providing that social and educational support to prevent people from getting into trouble with our corrections system in the first place.

Pam Green: A very big issue. As always Kelly thanks so much for your time today.

Kelly Vincent: Thanks Pam.