Thousands of people raised to release aboriginal women imprisoned for debt


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Experts say law disproportionately affects indigenous Australians

Activists in Australia have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help liberated Aboriginal women who are imprisoned for failing to pay fines.

Western Australia is the only state in the country to regularly imprison people for unpaid fines, often on minor offenses.

Experts point out that the law disproportionately affects indigenous Australians, as well as poor and vulnerable people.

The state government said it was planning reforms this year that will make it harder to jail the population.

In the meantime, activists have begun to raise funds to pay fines for indigenous women, raising almost A $ 200,000 (£ 110,000, or US $ 143,000) since Saturday.

According to a 2016 government report, Aboriginal women were the most likely to be imprisoned for unpaid fines, due to high levels of disadvantage.

"These are cases of very poor Aboriginal women, street mothers, shelters," said Debbie Kilroy of the Sisters Inside advocacy group.

"They live below the poverty line and therefore can not afford to pay a fine."

Ms. Kilroy said that they had helped a woman Wednesday to release a woman who was serving a 12-day prison sentence because she could not pay a fine of 2,300 Australian dollars. The woman used to live in her car, said the activist.

How many people are affected?

According to all demographics, fewer than 10 people a month on average last year were imprisoned solely for unpaid fines in Western Australia, according to the state Department of Justice.

This is a significant decrease from 2010-2015, when more than 800 people were imprisoned each year, according to the Independent Human Rights Center.

The cuts followed a violent response to the death of a 22-year-old Aboriginal woman in 2014 who was detained for an unpaid fine.

However, Ms. Kilroy claimed that she was aware of 2,400 outstanding warrants for unpaid fines in the state.

What is the purpose of the campaign?

He hopes to help pay off the debts of at least 100 Aboriginal women incarcerated or incarcerated because of such warrants.

The group has already settled three terms this week using donations.

"This has given me hope in humanity for those who care about indigenous women, who are the most marginalized in our country," Kilroy told the BBC.

What do the authorities say?

The state government, elected in 2017, announced that in July, it would amend the law to allow a magistrate to order imprisonment for unpaid fines. At present, warrants may be issued by an organization responsible for the administration of fines.

The proposed change would ensure that imprisonment for unpaid fines "is really a last resort," said Attorney General John Quigley's spokesman.

"The government is determined to solve this problem," said the spokesman.

Last year, The Australian Government's Annual Report Card on Aboriginal Neglect Reduction shows improvement in only three of the seven key benchmarks.