Prisoner Abuse in Australia (part 2) – The Legal Framework


The purpose of this post is to summarize the findings of a report published by Human Rights Watch Australia:


Kirti Sharma, “I Needed Help, Instead I Was Punished – Abuse and Neglect of Prisoners with Disabilities in Australia” (7 February 2018), online: Human Rights Watch <>


The prequel to this post can be found here:


Australia is a member of many important international organizations dedicated to human rights. Some of these include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2008.

The purpose of the CRPD is, “…to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity” (Article 1). Article 5.3 is of great importance; it is written that states should do what they can to ensure “reasonable accommodation” for the promotion of equality and non-discrimination. The relevance of this article is tantamount to the experiences of inmates with disabilities, considering the fact that they are not easily accommodated in prisons.

The report then goes on to mention that when accommodations are not made, the lack of them can transform conditions of detention into situations of ill treatment and control, as stated by the Attorney-General of the UN at a General Assembly session on the topic of torture and inhuman treatment.

Another interesting point under this discussion mentions the right to an accessible environment. The committee overseeing CRPD found that lack of accommodations is a direct violation to section 17 of the Convention, which states that persons with disabilities are entitled to the right of respect for their integrity. In order to rectify this, the State must take steps to improve facilities so that they do not make living conditions more onerous.

The rest of this discussion goes on to mention the obligations that the nation has to uphold human rights and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy basic rights including health and liberty and security of the person.

There is a tendency in society to completely shun criminals and not consider their accommodations in prisons. These emotions and actions seem to come from a desire to isolate these individuals and not think twice. However, as signatories to international conventions regarding human rights there, is an obligation to uphold, protect, and extend human rights. As a developed country, society emphasizes human rights protections. As human beings, basic human rights should be extended to all; otherwise, there runs a risk of losing humanity.

This blog post was written by a CCLA Volunteer. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA.