Reports have arisen of a First Nations man in Junee Correctional Centre being denied proper healthcare for an infected hip replacement, in a damning insight into Australia’s prisons.
The man’s lawyer, Lisa De Luca, shared a post on Instagram which read “I’ve an Aboriginal client in Junee Prison with blood poisoning and needs his hip replacement removed”.
According to De Luca, the man couldn’t walk, had been in increasing pain for four days and had a fever.
She then alleged that the prison had refused to give him antibiotics or take him to hospital, and that it had refused to “allow me to speak to anyone who [could] help me”.
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Greens MP David Shoebridge wrote a letter of concern about the man’s health to Anthony Roberts, the Minister for Corrections.
In the letter – which Shoebridge then Tweeted – he wrote that he had “serious concerns regarding reports that a First Nations man is being refused urgent medical treatment.”
Shoebridge also said he’d been advised that when an ambulance was sent to take the man to a hospital, it was “not admitted to the facility”.
We’ve been alerted to the desperate need for medical care for this First Nations man in a private prison in NSW. It is grossly unacceptable that he has not had independent care in a public hospital for his potentially life threatening illness. We’re working to get him urgent help pic.twitter.com/ksIRReRK5D
— David Shoebridge (@DavidShoebridge) December 13, 2021
Thankfully, the man has now been admitted to hospital and is getting the treatment he needs.
In a Tweet, Shoebridge wrote: “thanks to all who joined us in raising concerns & demanding action … Private jails, Aboriginal inmates, institutional indifference. There’s so much wrong with this case.”
Junee Correctional Centre is privately owned by GEO Group Australia, which has a contract with the NSW government. In a statement, a spokesperson for the GEO Group said that the “serious allegations made on social media overnight” were “inaccurate”.
They also said that “a 37-year-old Aboriginal man underwent a thorough medical examination at the on-site Health Centre yesterday (Monday 13 December) in relation to an existing, non-life-threatening medical condition.
“A treatment plan was established for the man, including a referral to a specialist at Wagga Wagga Base Hospital for further assessment and treatment as required.
“Junee Correctional Centre’s Aboriginal Liaison Officer has also met with the man this morning to check on his welfare and to discuss with him the plan for his ongoing health care”.
De Luca told The Guardian that the man was “in a bad way”.
“The GP said ‘yes you have an infection it’s in your hip replacement’. The client was in distress.
“He said “I’m in agony and it’s getting worse’.”
This is not the first time Junee Correctional Centre has been linked to alleged negligence of a severely unwell First Nations person. In 2015 Danny Whitton, an Indigenous man who was incarcerated there, died in hospital.
At the inquest into his death, a witness from Junee said that Whitton looked “very, very sick” and his “whole body was yellow”.
“I asked the officers if they could come and help him. I said ‘he needs help’. They basically just said ‘yeah mate, whatever’, dismissed it”.
The witness also said that it took nurses an hour and a half after that to come and treat Whitton.
He was taken to the centre’s medical unit and two days later was taken to Wagga Wagga hospital and diagnosed with liver failure. Then, he was airlifted to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney where he died.
Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott said in the inquest’s findings that “[Whitton’s] deterioration was not appropriately actioned in a timely manner due to overall suboptimal care and a significant misunderstanding of the transfer procedure of a patient from the health clinic at Junee Correctional Centre to the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital”
Whitton’s mother Kylie Knight alleged that she was unaware her son was sick until his airlift to Sydney had already been arranged.
“I never got a phone call from Corrective Services NSW or Junee Correctional Centre,” she said.
Then, when she went to sit on Whitton’s bed as his life support was turned off, she alleged that an officer told her she couldn’t touch him.
“He said because Danny would need an autopsy, touching him would be ‘tampering with evidence’. He said ‘he is still Corrective Services property’.
“It broke my heart.”