New Deaths in Custody Report released

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has released the latest report from the National Deaths in Custody Program (NDICP) Deaths in custody in Australia 2018-19 Statistical Report.

Deputy Director of the AIC, Dr Rick Brown said that the NDICP examines the circumstances of deaths in prison, police custody and juvenile detention around Australia since 1979.

“Here at the AIC we have coordinated the NDICP since its establishment in 1992, reporting on the number of deaths in custody in Australia, and the patterns and trends observed in those deaths”, Dr Rick Brown said.

In the 28 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1991), there have been 455 Indigenous deaths in custody—295 in prison, 156 in police custody or custody-related operations and four in juvenile detention.

The latest report details the 113 deaths in custody in 2018-19—89 in prison custody and 24 in police custody or custody-related operations—and compares these findings to longer term trends.

“Deaths in prison custody include deaths that occur in prison or youth detention facilities. This also includes the deaths that occur during transfer to or from prison or youth detention centres, or in medical facilities following transfer from adult or youth detention centres,” Dr Brown said.

Of the 89 deaths in prison custody, 18 per cent were of Indigenous persons and 82 per cent were of non-Indigenous persons, with the majority of these deaths being of males.

More than half of the deaths in prison custody were caused by natural causes, this being the most common cause of death for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners.

“Deaths in police custody include deaths in institutional settings like police stations or lock-ups, police vehicles, during transfers, or in hospitals following transfer from an institution, and deaths in police operations including raids, sieges and police pursuits,” Dr Brown said.

Of the 24 deaths in police custody, four were of Indigenous persons, 19 were of non-Indigenous persons, and the Indigenous status was unknown in one further case.

Just over half of the deaths in police custody were caused by gunshot wounds—nine were police shootings and four were self-inflicted.

Two of the four Indigenous deaths in police custody were accidental deaths attributable to other/multiple causes, one was a self-inflicted death attributable to gunshot wounds, and one had no cause or manner of death recorded.

“Information collected through the NDICP including on cause of death, manner of death, the number of Indigenous persons who die in custody and the age and gender of deceased persons is vital to monitoring trends in deaths in custody, and will be used to inform policy and develop initiatives to reduce the number of deaths that occur in police and prison custody”, Dr Rick Brown said.

To read the Deaths in custody in Australia 2018-19 Statistical Report visit

For statistics and data from the long-term monitoring visit


Background notes

The NDICP is compiled from two main data sources:

  • NDICP data collection forms completed by all state and territory police services and correctional departments in Australia; and
  • coronial records, including transcripts of proceedings and findings, as well as toxicology and post-mortem reports.

The information presented in the report is quantitative and intended to provide an overview of statistical trends and patterns. It does not provide information on individual cases, or information of a more qualitative nature.