Why We Need To Ban The Use Of ‘Spit Hoods’ In Australian Prisons

Asphyxiation from use of spit hoods is a common issue that occurs in cases of Indigenous deaths in custody.

spit hoods

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A call for a ban on the use of spit hoods in prison, launched by the family of an Indigenous man who died in an Adelaide prison whilst being restrained, is gaining momentum.

Wayne Fella Morrison was a Wiradjuri, Kokatha and Wirangu man. He was 29-years-old when he died in South Australia’s Yatala Labour Prison in September of 2016.

Morrison had been restrained by prison guards after an altercation, placed in a spit hood and placed face-down in the back of a prison transport van.

Morrison was unconscious when he was pulled from the van and died in Royal Adelaide hospital two days later, when his family were forced to turn off his life support machine.

Morrison’s family have been calling for a state and federal ban on spit hoods in prisons and police stations since Morrison’s death.

What Is A ‘Spit Hood’?

Spit hoods are a mesh-fabric hood designed for restraint that conceal the face and they’re generally fixed at the base with a band around the neck.

In theory, they’re used to protect corrections workers from spitting or biting.

Speaking to Junkee earlier this year, Morrison’s sibling Latoya Rule, said that asphyxiation from use of spit hoods is a common issue that occurs in cases of Indigenous deaths in custody.

Rule wrote on the petition that the family “cannot bring Fella back” but “know there is at least one thing we can do to prevent other families from experiencing a tragedy like ours — ban the use of spit hoods.”

The Northern Territory banned the used of spit hoods on minors in 2019 following a shocking investigation aired by the ABC that showed Dylan Voller restrained in a chair in Darwin’s Don Dale youth detention centre and forced to wear a spit hood.

South Australia followed suit a couple of months later and became the last jurisdiction in the country to commit to banning their use amongst youth detainees after a shocking report by the state’s ombudsman found that they were being used on children as young as 13.

However, their use is still permitted for adults in correctional facilities nationally.

Sign The Petition

The family have gathered outside the Supreme Court of South Australia, where the inquest into Morrison’s death is ongoing, to raise awareness for their campaign.

Morrison’s family had plans to deliver a 20,000 signature petition to state parliament calling for immediate action and their online petition has seen more than 22,000 people sign so far.