ACT Government: number of autistic prisoners

prisoners being sniffed by sniffer dog on lead

SOfASD asked the ACT Government how many autistic prisoners there are in the AMC. You can download the Minister's response (6/7/2018) from the link below.

Basically, the ACT Government says:

  • it doesn't know how many of its prisoners (detainees?) are autistic
  • detainees can self-identify as autistic and have their claim written on their ACTCS Induction Form
  • its system "offer[s] a supported environment and care coordination for detainees with identified complex needs". They do not indicate how many detainees meet this criterion, or say whether self-identifying as autistic means having "identified complex needs" (it's sounds unlikely).  The ACT Government provided no evidence whatsoever of any actual support
  • it asked the AMC and JHS "to work collaboratively on improving the data collection and storage processes" ... if this happens the ACT Government may be able eventually to answer basic questions about the number of autistic prisoners

SOfASD feels that autistic detainees in the ACT are more likely to be undiagnosed so expecting detainees to self-identify as autistic is an especially poor approach. It's likely that many autistic detainees would not self-identify even if they could.

Taking this approach may even be disability discrimination as it may prevent detainees accessing proper diagnosis and essential disability supports ... though, based on past performance, the ACT legal system would most likely fail to recognise disability discrimination is occurring (the ACT Discrimination Tribunal did not recognise providing appropriate education and disability support for non-autistic children while failing/refusing to provide appropriate services and support for autistic children as disability discrimination, see Woodbury and Australian Capital Territory [2007] ACTDT 4, para 121). Most likely, the ACT legal system would repeat its previous view that any disability discrimination by an ACT government agency, were it happening, is protected or lawful discrimination (ACTDT 4 [as above], para 122).

Note that governments in Australia deny prisoners access to the NDIS and other disability supports, so the services and supports provided within the ACT's detention system is all that is available. There is no indication that the ACT's detention system recognises the distinct nature of ASD or provides any appropriate support.

The Minister claims the ACT Government is developing "an ACT Disability Justice Strategy as part of a continuing commitment to people with disabilities under the National Disability Strategy" but the ACT Government has not contacted SOfASD, the only ASD specific advocacy group in the ACT, about National Disability Strategy. Nor has the ACT Government contacted SOfASD about any other aspect of the National Disability Strategy.