Australian Institute of Criminology

Skip to content

Deaths in custody: 10 years on from the Royal Commission

Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 203

Paul Williams
ISBN 0 642 24228 3 ISSN 0817-8542
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, April 2001


This paper examines the number and circumstances of deaths in custody for the decade studied by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, compared with those which have occurred in the decade since. The paper finds that the average annual rate of death in custody for an Indigenous person has decreased from 4.4 deaths per 100,000 persons between 1980 and 1989 to 3.8 deaths per 100,000 between 1990 and 1999. Over this period, as a proportion of all deaths in custody or police operations, deaths of Indigenous persons decreased from 21 per cent to 18 per cent. As a proportion of all deaths in custody, deaths in police custody have decreased in this decade, and deaths in prisons have increased.