In terms of culpability and liability the death of the Warburton Elder in the back of a prisoner transport typifies so many unwarranted deaths in custody in Australia including the Palm Island death in custody, the impaling death of the young man in Redfern, and so many thousands of other deaths. Australia has a long tragic history of deaths in custody, and is not limited to the horrific record during the last 31 years which has claimed in excess of 2,300 lives.
Australia has one of the world’s worst deaths in custody records. As a researcher I have compared Australia 's deaths in custody record in terms of proportion to populations with other countries. Deaths in custody includes prison and police custody. We compare badly with even Apartheid South Africa .
A rally in Perth on March 22 by the Deaths in Custody Watch Committee protested the increasing moves for prison privatization and in particular the death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward while he was in private prison transport. The rally called for these services to be returned to public operation where they are accountable to the public through parliament.
The secretary of Western Australia's prison officers union, John Welch, called on the government to tear up its contract with the private company responsible for prisoner transport.