The value of the life of a prisoner in Victoria.... about 20 cents
Magistrates refusal to grant bail was a death sentence for Ian Westcott who died in cell 428, Scarborough south unit of Port Phillip Prison. He was not the only prisoner to die in the"care" of Port Phillips global prison profiteer, G4S. Ian was discovered dead his cell at 8.09am on Saturday, November 26, 2005. The 55-year-old's final words were scrawled across a lined A4 page: ''Asthma attack buzzed for help no response.''
He had died sitting on the cold cement floor with his back against a wall. A coronial inquest in 2009 pointed to a faulty 20¢ telephone pin in the single cell's "archaic" intercom system. The lonely death of Westcott - in the dark, trying to call for help - was preventable, the coroner found. Controversial prison operator G4S Australia settled a Supreme Court proceedings brought by his family.
The family has said that there is a fatal lack of care and accountability in Victoria's prisons.
Coroner Audrey Jamieson subsequently found G4S - formerly GSL Custodial Services - at fault for conducting only a visual, "tokenistic inspection" of its ''archaic'' cell intercoms between inmates and prison staff during overnight lockdown. The coroner found ''systemic non-compliance'' by G4S with a requirement to ensure its emergency intercom system was functioning properly. ''I find a direct correlation between the failure of the intercom system and Mr Westcott's death. The technology must be capable of meeting the security needs of the isolated at all times.''
St Vincent's Correctional Health Services, in turn, had failed to assess and manage Mr Westcott's asthma, the Coroner found. All this is a scant comfort to Ian's familty... and of no benefit to Ian.
Questions remain as to accountability. St Vincent's spokesman Bruce Atherton refused to say whether it had followed the coroner's recommendations to improve asthma management for prisoners, educate correctional staff on the emergency treatment of asthma, ensure medication was properly labelled and review the caseloads of staff.
While the State fined G4S an undisclosed sum over Ian Westcott's death. In 2006, that fine followed another fine imposed the company of $200,000 after officers at Port Phillip Prison coerced an inmate to insert a sausage into his rectum - the man later won damages against the company.
" vacuum of accountability "
G4S acts in a "vacuum of accountability", says Charandev Singh, spokesman for the Centre for Human Rights of Imprisoned People. "They are one of the largest private prison corporations in the world and one of the wealthiest but right across the world there is this pattern of lethal indifference that characterises their business and that falls time and time again on the most vulnerable members of our community."
The West Australian government this month dumped G4S from running its prisoner transport services - after the company pleaded guilty under occupational health and safety laws over the death of Aboriginal elder Ian Ward from heatstroke in 2008.
In Victoria, G4S has contracts to run prisoner transports, along with Port Phillip Prison, the Melbourne Custody Centre and Moorabbin Justice Centre. The company's record here also includes a coroner's finding that it contributed to the deaths of four inmates at Port Phillip Prison in 1997-98.
The greaving daughter wanted to have his final, distressed note from prison - but it was lost by the Coroner's Court.