An Aboriginal woman who died in jail after twice seeking medical attention from authorities who deemed her healthy was imprisoned over unpaid fines totalling just $1000 it has emerged.
Julieka Dhu who was 22-years-old at the time of her death earlier this month, was in jail for four days for failing to pay a $1000 fine.
It's emerged that not only was Ms Dhu released from hospital multiple times after complaining she felt unwell but she was locked up as part of the WA government's policy of paying down outstanding fines through prison time.
After complaining to police about severe pain, vomiting and partial paralysis she was twice taken to a local hospital but on both occasions declared well enough to be sent back to prison depsite reportedly not being seen by a doctor reported he Australian newspaper.
Her family is now demanding answers from the WA government.
Her uncle Shaun Harris questioned how someone who was dying could be sent back twice to prison with an all clear from the hospital.
“How on earth did the WA health system, the Hedland Health Campus, apparently miss such an obvious health problem on more than one occasion, such as toxic poisoning and officially declare Julieka fit to be held in police custody?" Mr Harris told The Australian.
“And why did the police refuse her proper medical treatment by unjustifiably dismissing Julieka’s begging and multiple cries for urgent medical attention?’’
WA attorney general Michael Mischin is standing by the policy.
"It is not a matter of automatically jailing people as a default on paying fines, there are a number of ways people can avoid being put in jail," he said.
"If they choose not to avail themselves of that then [there is nothing] the government can do about it but to say there is no consequence if you refuse to pay a fine means that people have a licence to break the law maybe in petty ways but without consequences and that just reduces the respect for the rule of law."
Shadow Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt criticised the approach saying the cost doesn't justify the incarceration over fines of only a few thousand dollars.
"I've long had the view that locking people up to pay down fines when you don't resolve the underlying issue is a terrible way to operate a justice system, it's a terrible way to operate the finances of the state," he said.
"Ultimately it costs more to keep someone inside than the fine that they're paying down".
Mr Wyatt also said the policy targets the poor and will only maintain the high incarceration rate of Indigenous people.
Family and community members have been critical of the Port Hedland Health campus that Julieka Dhu was admitted to three times and their conduct is currently being investigated.
The family want the harsh penalties that lead to her arrest to be changed.
Source: SBS News online