The Northern Territory Prison System is Broken

The Criminal Lawyers Association of the Northern Territory (CLANT) understands that remandees and sentenced prisoners at Darwin Prison are being locked down for up to three days at a time with no access to lawyers, programs or family visits.


Recent technical issues between the prison and the courts have meant inmates cannot communicate with their lawyers. This has resulted in potential breaches of procedural fairness while adding to the backlog of unresolved court matters.


Defendants have reported there is chronic overcrowding, insufficient electrical power, running water and a lack of basic hygiene requirements such as flushable toilets e.g. inmates at Holtze Prison are forced to utilise bottled drinking water to flush toilets, multiple days during lockdowns without access to showers and hygiene products or clean clothes.


  • There is currently no access or limited access to rehabilitation or employment opportunities.
  • The current conditions may breach fundamental human rights and international laws.
  • NTCC staff have told defence lawyers that a lack of resources, OH&S issues and industrial action are primary causes.

If Darwin Prison cannot accommodate the needs of prisoners, then the community is at greater risk of continued crime.

We can create a safer community, reduce crime and re-offending and save tax payer money by:


  • Revoking mandatory sentencing and strict bail laws that have continually proven to be ineffective in tackling crime;
  • Focusing on Justice re-investment and alternatives to imprisonment such as needs based rehabilitation and education;
  • Acknowledging we cannot incarcerate our way to a safer society – the prison system is failing and we need to consider alternatives and decarceration with respect to non-violent offenders and non-entrenched recidivist offenders

These initiatives make our community safer because:


  • The prison environment breeds further criminal activity by exposing low level offenders to hardened criminals;
  • Prisoners are removed from family, housing and employment and are routinely released with no meaningful support or re-integration plan. This leads to higher risks of re-offending.
  • It tackles underlying issues that give rise to crime and provides pathways to rehabilitation that enhance community protection and societal cohesion.


Immediate Government action to implement wide ranging evidence based reforms is the only way forward.


Media Contacts: Chrissy McConnel 0408 895 560 and Shane McMaster 0447 613 585