Single mum of 5 jailed for unpaid fines - Release her!
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On Wednesday 27 September a single mother of five children, most of them aged less than five years and while also caring interim for her sister's six children, all of them less than 13 years of age, called police to assist with alleged disorderly behaviour from a visiting relative.
On the morning of the 27th police attended but instead of prioritising the mother's distress call, the attending police officers completed a background check on the mother. They found outstanding unpaid fines for traffic infringements and one infringement to do with her dog.
They arrested the mother.
The children were left in the care of the eldest; a teenager.
In 1988, the NSW Government outlawed the jailing of individuals for unpaid fines. In 1987 in a NSW jail an 18 year old fine defaulter was bashed to death. This led to the NSW Government having a good look at itself. On August 2, 2014, a 22 year old Western Australian woman, Ms Dhu, called police for help but was instead arrested after a background check found unpaid fines. She would die two days later in the South Hedland police watch-house, pronounced dead at the Hedland Health Campus. Following a coronial inquest, the Western Australian Coroner recommended that alternatives should be sought to the jailing of individuals for unpaid fines and for the consideration of the establishment of a Custody Notification Service.
A significant proportion of Western Australia's prison population is comprised of individuals who are unable to pay fines. The most disadvantaged and elevated risk group are Aboriginal single mothers who comprise one in six of the individuals incarcerated because they cannot pay the fines. The jailing of individuals for unpaid fines is classist and racist. It is damaging. No right minded society should be jailing individuals because they cannot afford to pay fines.
The Western Australia Government is yet to deliver upon its election promise to put to an end the jailing of individuals who have unpaid fines. The Western Australian Government is yet to deliver upon its election promise to establish a Custody Notification Service.
The Western Australia Government and the Western Australian Police should do everything within their capacity to address all of the above and do what they can to return this single parent to her children.
* For more information on the Custody Notification Service:
* The First Nations Homelessness Project, a predominately volunteer outreach service is supporting the family at this time - you can contribute here:
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