Anniversary of the Death of Mr Ward – Kalgoorlie Miner

We have recently passed the two year anniversary of the death of Mr Ward who died while being transported in a prisoner transport vehicle in summer without air-conditioning. A former prisoner has provided a first hand account of what these vehicles are like to travel in.

The following account is from Kalgoorlie. Miner newspaper. Visit their site and see what happens in Kal.

Kalgoorlie Miner

NATASHA BODDY 28th January 2010

The two-year anniversary of the death in custody of a Goldfields Aboriginal elder has prompted a former prisoner to speak out about the “degrading” conditions in which prisoners were transported.

The former prisoner, who did not want his name published, said the conditions in which some prisoners were transported were “degrading”, “filthy” and “inhumane”.

The man told the Kalgoorlie Miner he was transported in a prison van in similar conditions to those in which 46-year-old father of four Mr Ward died.

Mr Ward was arrested in Laverton on Australia Day 2008 for drink-driving while serving a suspended jail term for other driving offences. He was remanded in custody to face court in Kalgoorlie 360km away and suffered third-degree burns to his stomach following his collapse in the rear of a prison van in which the air conditioning was not working.

prisoner transport van Western Australia

Given only a 600ml bottle of water and a meat pie for the journey, Mr Ward later died from heat stroke on the 42C day.

Speaking out after Mr Ward’s death, the former prisoner said he could understand how Mr Ward died because he was transported in similar conditions.

“When Mr Ward died I could see exactly how it happened,” he said. “The way they transported prisoners was wrong and it was just inhumane.”

The man said when he was remanded in custody to travel from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to a Perth prison, he was transported in the back of a prison van similar to one in which Mr Ward collapsed.

“We were transported from Kalgoorlie to Perth and we were herded into the back like sheep,” he said.

“If it tipped over, you’re a goner.”

He said conditions inside the prison van were “filthy” and “degrading” with prisoners often crammed into metal pods at the back of the vehicle.

“There were 12 of us in the back of the prison van and the smell from the toilet was unbelievable,” he said. “It was a hot day and I dry-retched when I climbed in because of the smell. It hadn’t been cleaned.”

The former inmate said while there was a toilet inside the van, unlike the vehicle in which Mr Ward was transported, it was filthy and many prisoners did not want to use it.

“We were given 600ml of water like Mr Ward and we had wet sandwiches, but the guys didn’t want to drink the water because if they needed the toilet, they would have to expose themselves in front of all the other prisoners,” he said.

Like Mr Ward, the former prisoner said he was never told about a duress alarm installed in the back of the vehicle, nor was he told how to communicate with the guards driving the prison van.

“You don’t get spoken to, there’s no communication,” he said.

He told the Kalgoorlie Miner although the guards had stopped twice during the journey to Perth in August last year, they did not stop to check on prisoners inside.

“THEY stopped two times but didn’t open the back to see how we were,” he said.

He said though the air conditioning was functioning in the prison van in which he was transported, the former prisoner said it was “freezing”.

During the inquest into Mr Ward’s death, State Coroner Alastair Hope heard evidence from Nina Stokoe, one of the guards who transported Mr Ward, who said she assumed the air conditioning in the pod had been working because the driver’s cabin had functioning air conditioning.

Mr Hope also heard evidence staff from the private prisoner transport company, GSL, now G4S, had repeatedly complained about the sub-standard vehicles used to transport prisoners and the air conditioning had been reported faulty at least one month before Mr Ward’s death.

Mr Ward’s inquest also revealed chronic deficiencies in the Government-owned fleet of prison vans were well-known to the Department of Corrective Services and a report had been tabled in Parliament in 2001 following a highly-critical review by a former inspector of custodial services.

Some months later, the Department of Corrective Services announced prisoners would be transported in chartered buses and planes until the fleet of long-haul vehicles was replaced.

Though some changes have been implemented to privatised custodial services and prisoner transport in WA, the former prisoner said he simply hoped prisoners transport would improve in the wake of Mr Ward’s tragic death.

“There has got to be a better way,” he said.

Prisoner Travel Outrage

I have written previously about the death of Mr Ward. This article on the 2nd anniversary of his death was published in the Kalgoorlie Miner

I’ve copied this as fair use as articles are so hard to find on their site. I urge you to take a look at the Miner every now and then.

Kalgoorlie Miner 28th January 2010 by Natasha Boddy

The two-year anniversary of the death in custody of a Goldfields Aboriginal elder has prompted a former prisoner to speak out about the “degrading” conditions in which prisoners were transported.

The former prisoner, who did not want his name published, said the conditions in which some prisoners were transported were “degrading”, “filthy” and “inhumane”.

The man told the Kalgoorlie Miner he was transported in a prison van in similar conditions to those in which 46-year-old father of four Mr Ward died.

Mr Ward was arrested in Laverton on Australia Day 2008 for drink-driving while serving a suspended jail term for other driving offences. He was remanded in custody to face court in Kalgoorlie 360km away and suffered third-degree burns to his stomach following his collapse in the rear of a prison van in which the air conditioning was not working.

Given only a 600ml bottle of water and a meat pie for the journey, Mr Ward later died from heat stroke on the 42C day.

Speaking out after Mr Ward’s death, the former prisoner said he could understand how Mr Ward died because he was transported in similar conditions.

“When Mr Ward died I could see exactly how it happened,” he said. “The way they transported prisoners was wrong and it was just inhumane.”

The man said when he was remanded in custody to travel from Kalgoorlie-Boulder to a Perth prison, he was transported in the back of a prison van similar to one in which Mr Ward collapsed.

“We were transported from Kalgoorlie to Perth and we were herded into the back like sheep,” he said.

“If it tipped over, you’re a goner.”

He said conditions inside the prison van were “filthy” and “degrading” with prisoners often crammed into metal pods at the back of the vehicle.

“There were 12 of us in the back of the prison van and the smell from the toilet was unbelievable,” he said. “It was a hot day and I dry-retched when I climbed in because of the smell. It hadn’t been cleaned.”

The former inmate said while there was a toilet inside the van, unlike the vehicle in which Mr Ward was transported, it was filthy and many prisoners did not want to use it.

“We were given 600ml of water like Mr Ward and we had wet sandwiches, but the guys didn’t want to drink the water because if they needed the toilet, they would have to expose themselves in front of all the other prisoners,” he said.

Like Mr Ward, the former prisoner said he was never told about a duress alarm installed in the back of the vehicle, nor was he told how to communicate with the guards driving the prison van.

“You don’t get spoken to, there’s no communication,” he said.

He told the Kalgoorlie Miner although the guards had stopped twice during the journey to Perth in August last year, they did not stop to check on prisoners inside.

“THEY stopped two times but didn’t open the back to see how we were,” he said.

He said though the air conditioning was functioning in the prison van in which he was transported, the former prisoner said it was “freezing”.

During the inquest into Mr Ward’s death, State Coroner Alastair Hope heard evidence from Nina Stokoe, one of the guards who transported Mr Ward, who said she assumed the air conditioning in the pod had been working because the driver’s cabin had functioning air conditioning.

Mr Hope also heard evidence staff from the private prisoner transport company, GSL, now G4S, had repeatedly complained about the sub-standard vehicles used to transport prisoners and the air conditioning had been reported faulty at least one month before Mr Ward’s death.

Mr Ward’s inquest also revealed chronic deficiencies in the Government-owned fleet of prison vans were well-known to the Department of Corrective Services and a report had been tabled in Parliament in 2001 following a highly-critical review by a former inspector of custodial services.

Some months later, the Department of Corrective Services announced prisoners would be transported in chartered buses and planes until the fleet of long-haul vehicles was replaced.

Though some changes have been implemented to privatised custodial services and prisoner transport in WA, the former prisoner said he simply hoped prisoners transport would improve in the wake of Mr Ward’s tragic death.

“There has got to be a better way,” he said.

Yes we can achieve justice for Indigenous Australians

The following has come from a recent editorial in eurekastreet.com.au . I recommend reading the complete editorial.

The Edmund Rice Institute for Social Justice, Fremantle, has called for a large ex-gratia payment to the family of Mr Ward. The 46-year-old Aboriginal elder and cultural leader died on 27 January 2008 while being transported from Laverton to Kalgoorlie, in the back of a privatised prison van. His first name cannot be revealed for cultural reasons.

The report of Coroner Alistair Hope was published on 12 June this year. It concluded that Ward died of heatstroke, and that the WA Department of Corrective Services, the prison transport company GSL (now G4S) and the two drivers were jointly to blame. The coroner said Ward’s treatment was inhumane, and a breach of international laws to which Australia is a signatory.

In a statement issued after the Coroner’s report, Edmund Rice Institute director David Freeman said the report confirmed fears that this is ‘one of the worst human rights tragedies in Australian living memory’.

The Indigenous News Updates are sourced from news and other articles from around the country that I have posted on Twitter.

If you like this post and what else you see on the blog please subscribe by RSS feed (the orange button) or by email. Visit my subscription page.

Indigenous News Update – Mr Ward

This indigenous News Update contains more links to articles regarding the death of Mr Ward in the back of a prisoner transport vehicle on a 400km trip from Laverton to Kalgoorlie with outside temperatures in the mid forties (Celsius).

The coronial inquest into the death of Mr Ward was completed sometime ago. Here is a summary of news links at the end of this sorry story.

More links can be found here

  • Croakey wants to know if media had any responsibility for Mr Ward’s death as did not hi-light poor transfer service http://bit.ly/luOXS
  • Federal ALP release statement saying it is a tragic event. Release has a nice happy pic of Jenny Macklin http://bit.ly/2JwcDv
  • Eric Ripper describes death in custody of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward as a great failings of the former Labor Government. http://bit.ly/xO4us
  • ABC 4corners report on Mr Ward’s death and coronial inquiry http://bit.ly/C45y2
  • ABC 4corners extended interviews on death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward http://bit.ly/46vS2q
  • Coroners report on death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward http://bit.ly/7Q7lY
  • 1000 people rally in Perth for justice of Mr Ward http://bit.ly/CqmSU
  • Former WA minister accepts some responsibility for death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward http://bit.ly/2wvqj
  • Prisoner transport drivers defied orders in trip which Aboriginal man Mr Ward died http://bit.ly/OY4Lk
  • Guard haunted by death of Aboriginal man during prisoner transport http://bit.ly/4tS1Ks

The Indigenous News Updates are sourced from news and other articles from around the country that I have posted on Twitter.

If you like this post and what else you see on the blog please subscribe by RSS feed (the orange button) or by email. Visit my subscription page.

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