Australia in 'national crisis' over Aborigine jailings

This file photo taken on October 1, 2010 shows Warrmarn-Kija Aborigines performing in Sydney
Image caption A series of recent reports has painted bleak picture of aboriginal communities

Australia is facing a "national crisis" over the number of Aborigines being put in jail, a report by a parliamentary committee claims.

The report says a quarter of prisoners in Australia are Aboriginal, despite making up only 2.5% of the population.

In juvenile prisons, the figure is almost 60%.

Officials said poor housing, mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse contributed to the problem, and called for creative approaches.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said the statistics were alarming.

"There has been an increasing trend with law and order severity which I think the general community accepts, particularly in respect to violent crimes," he said.

"But I think locking people up for fine defaults and driving offences in circumstances where Aborigines in remote communities... find it almost impossible to get a driver's licence is really taking that philosophy far too far."

The report Doing Time says Aboriginal youths are 28 times more likely than other young Australians to be sent to a juvenile detention centre.

The number of Aboriginal men in custody had risen by 55% in the past 10 years, the report said.

The report called the statistics a disgrace and a national tragedy.

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