This is a very disturbing story.
.. the shocking story of a well respected community leader in outback Western Australia who was locked in a metal cell in the back of a prison van and driven through the desert in the searing heat. Four hours later he was dead.
In his lifetime Mr Ward, whose first name is not used in respect for Aboriginal custom, had gone from a traditional hunter-gatherer life in the desert of Western Australia to becoming a spokesman for his people in Australia and overseas.
On a hot Saturday night, just over a year ago, Laverton police arrested Mr Ward for driving under the influence of alcohol. Less than 24 hours later he was dead. He had been transported 400 kilometres in the back of a prison van operated by a private security firm. The air temperature inside his cell was over 47 degrees, and the metal surface reached 56 degrees…
The guards driving the prison van did not stop to check his welfare or see if he needed a toilet break, food or water until, they say, they heard a thud from the back. Even then they didn’t unlock both the cell doors, and instead threw water on Mr Ward through the chained-up inner door.
"We don’t treat animals like that. We don’t treat our pets like that. People get put in jail for treating another… another creature the same as Mr Ward was treated." Dennis Eggington, Aboriginal Legal Service of WA
Evidence from the inquest reveals the Department of Corrective Services was explicitly warned of the high risk involved with transporting prisoners in their ageing and sub-standard fleet of vehicles, by the former company providing the transport service…
Basically, this converted a drink-driving matter into execution by cooking to death.
Today in The Sydney Morning Herald we learn this:
THE private prison operator found responsible for the gruesome death in custody of a West Australian Aboriginal elder last year was invited to bid to run a NSW prison.
Mr Ward, whose family has asked that his first name not be used, suffered third-degree burns and slowly burned to death in almost 60-degree heat in the back of a prison van on a 400-kilometre trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie in January last year.
He had been charged with drink-driving and was refused bail in an unrepresented 10-minute hearing by an unqualified justice of the peace…
G4S Australia [formerly GSL] was one of five companies invited by the NSW Government to tender for the running of Parklea prison last month as it pursues a contentious privatisation policy at the western Sydney jail.
The company was awarded the contract to transport prisoners in WA despite a damning report by the Department of Immigration in 2005 on its transportation of five detainees from Melbourne to Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia.
The five prisoners, kept in the back of a GSL van for seven hours without food and with only one bottle of water, were forced to urinate in each other’s company. On that occasion, GSL promised it would take whatever steps it could "to ensure that this can never happen again"…
A company that previously owned the vans, AIMS, recommended the same year that they not be used for long-haul trips.
The WA government promised to replace the vans but never did, buying them instead and giving the transport contract to GSL.
In a statement the company said it took immediate action after Mr Ward’s death to prevent a recurrence, but it provided no details of the action.
The NSW Corrective Services Minister, John Robertson, was unavailable for comment last night.
No need to say more, is there?