MEMBERS of the south-west Koorie community are mourning the death of a 30-year-old former Warrnambool man who died in custody in South Australia.
Christopher Aaron Smith was found dead in the Yatla Labour Prison on Monday evening. Police and prison authorities said there were no suspicious circumstances.
He had been in custody on remand since May 18 and was due to face court on July 19 on charges of committing theft using force, possessing a firearm without a licence and failure to store ammunition separate from the firearm.
His family hopes to have the body repatriated back to Warrnambool for a funeral and burial after a coroner's inquiry.
Framlingham elder Len Clarke told The Standard yesterday Mr Smith's death may have been prevented if there was an alternative custodial system to prisons which he described as the "university of crime".
It is understood Mr Smith has an extensive record of offences since his teens and was a suspect in a robbery of the Port Fairy IGA supermarket during last year's folk festival.
"I've been campaigning for years on this," he said.
"The jail system is draconian for minor offences.
"Once you get into the university of crime you can't break the cycle especially when your mates are in there.
"There needs to be an alternative method of incarceration, for example on special farms where they receive training.
"Christopher's family had asked if he could be brought to a prison closer to Warrnambool where it was easier to visit him.
"He was from a large extended family who cared for him and he will be sadly missed.
"We don't want to lose any more of our people in the incarceration system."
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