A mentally ill jail inmate is suing the ACT government after its prison officers allegedly photographed and distributed a "vile and racist" whiteboard drawing depicting him hanging from a noose.
In a statement of claim lodged in the ACT Supreme Court, the inmate's lawyers allege that the drawing at the Alexander Maconochie Centre depicts him in what appears to be a game of hangman.
The lawyers allege the drawing shows the inmate's initials, which staff and other inmates knew him by, near the hanging figure.
Also depicted near the figure is a boat sailing with a passenger saying "yay" in a speech bubble.
Inscribed on the boat is the acronym "SERT", which is understood to stand for the jail's Special Emergency Response Team, although ACT Correction disputed this previously.
The inmate's lawyers at Ken Cush and Associates allege that prison officers and the ACT government failed in their duty of care from this drawing, causing him to suffer injury, loss and damage.
These include aggravating his mental health condition and loss of human rights.
They argue for denouncement and punishment because the drawing was a "vile and racist caricature of the plaintiff as being another Indigenous person they wished to see die in custody".
They allege AMC officers knew or ought to have known that he was a vulnerable Indigenous person due to his mental health conditions who had tried to commit suicide, but they still allowed the drawing to be photographed and distributed at the jail.
"Subjecting the plaintiff to ridicule, degradation, humiliation and vilification was likely to cause him harm, distress and aggravate or exacerbate his pre-existing mental health conditions," the statement of claim reads.
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The inmate's lawyers also allege that officers used the drawing as "a vehicle to ridicule, degrade, disrespect, humiliate and vilify" him among officers and other detainees.
They argue that exemplary damages were justified because the officers' actions were a "flagrant disregard of the rights and safety" of the inmate.
Subjecting the plaintiff to ridicule, degradation, humiliation and vilification was likely to cause him harm, distress and aggravate or exacerbate his pre-existing mental health conditions.Lawyers for the plaintiff
Last Friday, the ACT government filed its defence, denying correctional officers engaged in and promoted the aforementioned conduct.
It also denies that it used the drawing as a vehicle to negatively portray the inmate and that it does not know the identity of the prison staff who drew the image and therefore cannot admit to it.
The government argued that the drawing did not depict the inmate's initials but rather an incomplete word with the letters J, D, N and S instead.
Aboriginal rights advocates in March last year strongly condemned the ACT Corrective Services when it tried to minimise the impact of the drawing.
The case is scheduled before the ACT Supreme Court in October.
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