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Packed Australian prison prompts end to mandatory minimum sentences

Canberra, April 19 (IANS) Overcrowded prisons in Australia have prompted calls for mandatory sentencing to be abolished, a media report said on Thursday.

The problem has led to bed shortages in the facilities, said Beth Wild, manager of the criminal law section of the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (Naaja).

“Prisoners are sleeping on floors, on mattresses and outside. They are asking not to be brought to court so that they don’t lose their beds,” said Wild on Thursday.

A total of 1,833 people were incarcerated across the Northern Territory (NT), Xinhua news agency reported citing the NT Corrections Department figures.

The NT has the highest rate of incarceration. The territory’s largest prison, the Darwin Correctional Facility, was found to be three per cent overcapacity with 1,087 prisoners house there.

The Alice Springs prison was 30 per cent overcapacity with 642 detainees.

“(The Territory government) should get rid of mandatory sentencing immediately. In the long-term it will save money as incarcerating people is expensive,” Wild said.

The average cost of keeping a prisoner behind bars in 2015-16 was $154.9 per day.



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