‘He was treated like a dog’: Bailey Mackander’s father on his son’s death in custody

Bailey Mackander was a 20-year-old Wiradjuri man who died in 2019 while in the custody of Kariyong Correctional Centre near Gosford in NSW. Bailey was on remand at the time of his death awaiting trial. He had been experiencing acute psychological issues and was placed in a Risk Intervention Team (RIT) cell, a small solitary cell on suicide watch. In the cell he had a severe and prolonged panic attack with chest pains, vomiting and struggles to breathe. Bailey urgently needed medical assistance, but was left to suffer.

Eventually, after telling guards he had swallowed batteries and razor blades, Bailey was taken to Gosford Hospital, but was discharged almost immediately. On the way back to the prisoner transport van, Bailey jumped over the side of the car park wall, falling ten metres to his death. Niko Chlopicki and Padraic Gibson from Solidarity spoke with Bailey’s father David Mackander on the first day of the inquest into Bailey’s death held at the Lidcombe Coroner’s Court. 

Can you talk about how Bailey came to be locked up? Do you believe there were alternatives to prison? 

Bailey was unsentenced in prison. He was the driver of a car they found drugs in. I actually have a letter we found where someone is thanking Bailey for taking the rap for them, so it looks like he was actually innocent on these charges. I’m not trying to say Bailey was an angel. He did have an addiction, he had done the wrong thing in the past when it comes to drugs and he needed help. 

He was constantly trying to get approval to do drug rehabilitation programs but they just wouldn’t organise this for him in prison. He was bashed so many times in there and he was constantly getting moved. He kept putting forms in every time, but he never got the help he required. 

I found another letter that came back in his belongings. It was saying that he couldn’t wait to get back and work for me [in construction] and see his little brothers and just have a proper family again. The “error of his ways” basically. 

But while ever the prison population is expanding like this, the people in there are not going to get help. They don’t have the man-power and the government’s never going to fix it quick enough, not as quick as they are throwing more people in jail. 

People in Bailey’s situation need rehabilitation. You’ve got to be able to retrain them, but as we can see with Bailey, the system just doesn’t care. We’re Indigenous and they just think you’re a piece of meat or a mongrel. It’s not right. 

Can you talk more about how Bailey was treated in prison? 

It was just terrible. When you listen to the audio [of Bailey calling for help from RIT cell], people were tormenting him. He was crying out for help, pleading for help and they were just teasing him through the cell. That’s the culture. 

What gets me is the prison guards are paid good money and they chose to go into the profession. If you’re going to treat someone like a dog, if you don’t like these so-called criminals, then choose a new career. No one’s making you stay. If that culture doesn’t change, we are never going to get the help for our loves ones that are in there. 

What happened in the days leading up to Bailey’s death? 

He was pleading for help. They had put him in RIT cell, that is apparently so vile to inmates that whenever you put someone with mental issues in there, it only makes things worse for them. So those procedures are broken. 

Bailey was pleading to see a psychiatrist, pleading to see a doctor, pleading for anyone to come and help him. He swallowed things. Basically he was so desperate to get out of that cell. 

You can see on the video that when they finally did take him to hospital, they made him walk with no shoes on. They’ve deliberately done that because you can see from the transcripts he wanted his shoes. But they said “no, we don’t have time”, so basically you have to walk along the cold concrete into the hospital. That’s the culture again, no humanity. 

Right at the end, in the last two days when the most horrible parts went down, Tracey [Bailey’s mother] was constantly ringing up and talking to people, begging for help for her son and they just would not get back to her. 

From reading the transcripts it seems that the mental health nurse they put Tracey through to at one point was actually in Silverwater, a totally different jail. They just don’t care. 

How was Bailey treated at the hospital? 

Gosford Hospital have done the wrong thing too. Bailey had swallowed things, but they didn’t use the proper equipment to detect anything inside him. We’ve got statements now that say this was an error. No psychiatric assessment, none of that was done. 

In one of their earlier statements that came from the hospital, they mentioned that they try and get inmates in and out really quick, because it makes the other patients feel uncomfortable [to have them in hospital]. So yeah, it’s the same thing as with the jail, there is no humanity in their treatment. 

What would you like to see happen out of this inquest? 

If there’s no accountability for Bailey’s death, we will never be able to change the culture and fix this situation for everyone else who has loved ones in jail. The Gosford hospital have got a lot to answer for, Corrective Services have a huge amount to answer for and Justice Health as well. None of them did what they were paid to do and they need to be held accountable.  

We want to thank everyone for the support, the Indigenous community have really been behind us and we have got a lot of other support as well, people looking after us. We all need to stand together here, because if there is no accountability then nothing will ever change and we won’t be able to protect the ones in the future coming through. 

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