The National Network of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls demands the Queensland Government urgently legislate to ban the use of spit hoods, solitary confinement, and implement immediate, compulsory re-training for all prison officers into the dangers of restraining prisoners with

The National Network will be present at the inquest of our sista, Selesa Tafaifa for the
coming fortnight to sit in solidarity with the family, and to record our observations of the proceedings.

Selesa Tafaifa died in Townsville Women’s Prison in 2021, while being forcefully restrained with a spit hood and hand cuffs, crying out four times “I can’t breathe”, begging for her puffer six times. At no point during that time, was the spit hood removed, nor was her asthma puffer provided to her.

‘Today, throughout the proceedings and on body cam footage, Selesa has repeatedly been called by the officers – “non-compliant” and refusing to follow directions until she got what she wanted,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘What I saw on the footage of Selesa’s last moments was an unwell and incredibly distressed and distraught woman, desperate to speak to her family, and corrections officers who were unrelenting in their quest to ‘manage’ a prisoner rather than support a human being in her despair,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘As a formerly incarcerated woman, I know this anguish all too well. I know the desperation of wanting to speak to family, and pleading and begging for this should not have been a death sentence for Selesa,’ said Tabitha Lean.

At the crux of this matter, there is even more to consider than the abhorrent, uncaring and apathetic behaviour of the corrections officers, it is also the use of force and torture of Selesa. ‘As a National Network, we consider the use of spit hoods in prisons a form of torture. Specifically, spit hoods are a practice that can and do kill,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘Spit hoods are a tool of carceral control that should not be used in our prisons, police cells, mental health facilities, aged care or hospital wards,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘Not only is the use of spit hoods barbaric, degrading and humiliating, they too often lead to fatalities’, said Tabitha Lean.

The racial animus is always present in these torturous measures. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as Indigenous communities, and Brown and Blak people are disproportionately represented across all areas of the criminal punishment system and are therefore subjected to the full impact of any excessive use of force or torture measures by authorities,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘Any measures to ban the use of spit hoods could ensure that no other Indigenous life is taken in this cruel and avoidable manner,’
said Tabitha Lean.

The family have attended every single day of the inquest to call for justice and accountability, in a statement, they have stated, ‘Selesa was denied any chance of survival, and she was afforded no humanity…We continue to grieve, and our hearts are broken. No human deserves to be treated like our mum was treated.’

The National Network stand in solidarity with Selesa’s family and will continue to call for the abolition of prisons and the freeing of women and girls from cages across this country.

About Us:
The National Network of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls represents women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people who are currently in prison, who have been to prison, those who are currently living within the confines of the criminal injustice system and those who have exited the system.

Our Network in Australia was founded in 2020 by Debbie Kilroy of Sisters Inside and
remains an abolitionist organisation committed to ending the incarceration of women and girls. Collectively we argue that prison will never be a safe place for women or girls, and in fact they are places that entrench poverty, increase trauma and cause further social and economic harm. Prisons, in our opinion, do not result in an increase in public or community safety.


0499 780 226