Backwater Western Australia, end now the arrest, jailing of single mums on unpaid fines
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In 1988, NSW put to an end police having to arrest individuals for unpaid fines. In 1987, 18 year old Jamie Partlic was locked up in Long Bay Prison for unpaid fines. He was savagely bashed in Long Bay Prison and nearly died. The next year, the NSW Government put an end to police having to arrest people for unpaid fines and criminalising them. Nearly three decades later Western Australia continues to arrest and punish those too poor to pay their fines. Western Australia punishes by jailing individuals who have not been able to pay their fines.
Nearly 100 per cent of the individuals with unpaid fines who are arrested live below the poverty line.
In Western Australia thereabouts 18 per cent of the prison population has been incarcerated for unpaid fines. The arresting and locking up of individuals who have unpaid fines discriminates against the impoverished and marginalised. Nearly one in 6 of those locked up for unpaid fines are Aboriginal women; mostly single mums.
The Western Australian Government has committed to finding alternatives other than jailing but must hurry up and put an end to the draconian laws that allow for the poor to be arrested and locked up for unpaid fines. In the meantime while they work to alternatives they should immediately suspend the capacity of police arresting individuals for unpaid fines. They can suspend or set aside legislation and immediately vote through the suspension. There are no justifiable excuses for not being able to do at least this for now.
Recently a single mum of five young children was jailed for unpaid fines - thanks to a Change.Org petition, media and a relentless campaign we managed to enable the release from prison of the mum - https://www.change.org/p/premier-of-western-australia-single-mum-of-5-jailed-for-fine-defaults-release-her
Daily, Western Australians are arrested for unpaid fines. It is abominable that the sea of privilege which is Western Australian Governments criminalise the poor, discriminate against against the poor. Western Australia needs to hurry up and scrap these archaic draconian discriminatory laws and fall into line with the rest of the nation.
On August 4, 2014, 22 year old Ms Dhu died in a police watch house cell after being locked up for unpaid fines. She had called police for assistance to an alleged domestic violence incident but after police did a background check by law they were forced to arrest her. It cost her life.
Change the law.
Similarly so the mother who we successfully campaigned for her release had called police for assistance after a visiting relative became allegedly violent. A background check on the mum found she had an unpaid fine for an unregistered dog and she was then carted away by police and finished up in Melaleuca Prison because of the unpaid fines.
Unpaid fines see the poor, see single mothers, whomsoever arrested everyday. It is an abomination that so many are locked up for unpaid fines. More than half are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders who are financially struggling or unable to pay these fines. A significant proportion are mums and dads, most of them single parents.
Police do not want to be arresting individuals for unpaid fines.
Change the legislation now and put an end to all this without delay.
Together we helped secure the release of one mother. Together we have expedited the establishing of the Custody Notification Service not only in Western Australia but also hopefully soon in other states and territories. Together we can force the end of the abomination of jailing the poor, end them being locked up for unpaid fines.
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