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Initiatives

Campaigns

APEC Prisoner Declaration

September 8, 2007.
JUSTICE ACTION representing convicts in the host Penal Colony of Australia, having regained their right to political expression returning the prisoner vote in the High Court of Australia, now exercise that right of political expression.

“Torture is the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) nations' norm” said Justice Action spokesperson Brett Collins today. We prisoners of the APEC nations condemn those governments for...

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Prisoner Voting Rights_310807

FofE.jpgVoting Rights for Prisoners report 2/07

In Aug 2004 Federal Parliament restricted the right to vote in Federal elections to those serving sentences of three years or less.

Now the coalition has barred all prisoners from voting in federal elections with the introduction in late 2006 of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Act.

There is no evidence that disenfranchising prisoners deters crime or assists in rehabilitation. It is more likely to increase alienation and disengagement from mainstream society and any sense of civic responsibility.

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JA mental illness policy

Justice Action believes that there are serious failings in the way public policy addresses mental illness in our society

We believe the single greatest cause of distress and difficulty; to the greatest proportion of those living with mental illness, is the way our society responds to them.

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Prisons and mental illness

Prisons have become the defacto mental institutions. Exclusion of the mentally ill is most starkly expressed in the government policy for expansion of the prison system; stigmatising the people held there and the blocking of community support for them.

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Crime Pays: Why Capitalism Needs Gaols and Why the Two Must Fall Together

Why capitalism needs jails and why the two must fall together

"Crime pays. I hate saying that, but it really does."
Arthur McDonald, former owner of California's largest private prison firm

With violence and terror as its tools, the prison system works to serve capitalism and maintain the current social order. Prisons in collaboration with the police, laws and court system, divert us from the real problems engendered by capitalism. They are the ultimate symbol of state and corporate control over individuals. They reinforce class structures and racial hierarchies by stigmatising a sector of the population as the ‘criminal class’, in addition to providing profits to corporations directly involved in prison operation.

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Watch Committee Media Releases

Media Release 10.02.97

Murder by Neglect - As Usual

The tragic death of James Alexander BRINDLE began on Thursday, February 6 when he was placed in a one-out cell environment whereby he was found hanging by a shoelace at 1305. He died when the life support machine was switched off on Sunday morning at Prince of Wales Hospital, said Ray Jackson.

Jimmy was 31 years old and the father of six children aged from 2 to 12. His death was totally tragic because custodial staff cynically ignored the Royal Commission Recommendations. Jimmy tried twice to be put with, firstly, the Aboriginal delegate (whose job it is to mentor incoming inmates) and secondly, his cousin. Another cousin was also available to participate in the care and control of Jimmy who was known to be stressed out.

The Night Senior at the Reception Induction Centre at Long Bay Gaol obviously believed that he knew best, and placed Jimmy in a two-out situation with a non-Aboriginal person on Monday, February 3. Jimmy was coming down off heroin and possibly marijuana.

As is usual for new prisoners with withdrawals Jimrny was cocktailed by Corrections Health staff at the Remand Induction Centre. It has been claimed that he was given Largactyl and Valium, also possibly Methadone. Whatever, the cocktail was enough to make him unsteady on his feet to the point where he had to be assisted to his cell on that fateful day. In a one-out situation.

Many questions need to be answered. His autopsy was done this afternoon and the Watch Committee will further investigate this tragic death to ascertain how?, and why? - and possibly who? Whether the death was murder - or murder by neglect? As usual.

This bring~ the New South Wales total for this year to four in less than six weeks. Two for the police and two for Corrective Services/Corrections Health. This was the New South Wales total for all of'96.

Two further deaths have occurred in Western Australia making the total 6 for this year already.

We need proper discussions, not discussions by Government appointment!

For further information please contact Ray Jackson on (02) 9264 9895.


Media Release 03. 02.97

Five More Deaths Pre Summit

Five more deaths in custody since 27.12.96 now brings the post May '89 total to 115. In a space of three weeks over the holiday season five young men are with us no more. Three deaths occurred involving the police and two involved prisons. Four deaths occurred in New South Wales and one in Western Australia. This brings the N.S.W. post May '89 total to 35, 50 since 1.1.80.

Jeffery James Shakespeare was 27 when he died on 30.12.96 as a result of a police pursuit in a stolen car. We do not condone the crime of car theft but there needs to be a better way to address the problem than high speed pursuits that endanger not only the public, the (usually) untrained driver at high speeds and of course the police, who are trained. Some years ago Brad Hazzard chaired a Commission looking at high speed puruits by the police which came up with several practical solutions. None were adopted by the N.S.W. Police Service.

Craig Leslie Conway died in Goulburn Gaol of a suspected unidentified drug overdose at 29 on 2.1.97. Hie death is still under investigation and several areas of concern are being looked at.

In W.A. on Friday 10.1.97, Peter Irwin Cameron, 36, collapsed and died hours after being released from prison on a special home leave pass. We await the post mortem outcome to find out why he died.

January 11th led to the death of Graham Paul Smith, 19, who was hit by a train whilst running away from police after an altercation outside a Lidcombe hotel. We await further details from the police.

Geoffrey John Fernando, 17, was also the victim of a high speed chase (lOOkph) in a stolen car. He died after the car hit a pole at Newtown on January 13th. He was not the driver.

The Watch Committee intends to call an urgent meeting with Commissioner Peter Ryan to further look at these incidents, as our death rates for high speed pursuits are climbing to the intolerable levels of those in W.A.

We believe these deaths, and, sadly, more to come, are totally avoidable. Unfortunately we also believe that the National Deaths in Custody Summits arranged by Senator Herron are wrongly structured and will give no positive outcomes. Rather it will merely attempt to shift the blame, first to the States/Territories and ultimately to Indigenous peoples themselves.

For further information please contact Ray Jackson on (02) 9264 9895.

Press Release - Bring David Home!

Press release***Press release***Press release

AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT MUST ACT - BRING DAVID HOME
Friday 19 January 2007

Supporters and campaigners for the repatriation of David Hicks demand that the Australian Parliament seeks David‚s immediate release and repatriation, and to reject the kangaroo court set up by the Pentagon which could see another 2-3 years of challenges in US courts.

Bring David Home campaigners are calling for a Canberra Convergence on the opening of Parliament on Tuesday 6 February at 11am on parliament lawns.

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Mental Heath Fact Sheet

Beyond Bars

There are many people in prison in NSW who have some form of mental illness.  This fact sheet examines why people with a mental illness are sent to prison and the problems that arise from the incarceration of those who are have mental health issues.

What is a Mental Illness?
The term ‘mental illness’ is very broad.  It covers a diverse range of health conditions relating to somebody’s psychological state.  Depression and schizophrenia are some of the better known examples of mental illness.  It is useful to note that the definition of mental illness is fluid.  It has changed frequently over time and is influenced by various social and cultural trends.  Some behaviours that would have been diagnosed as mental illness a decade ago would not necessarily be diagnosed in the same way today.

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Life sentence

The Persecution of the Diagnosed


This is Aboriginal Land. This is Aboriginal Land. Indigenous Cultural Respect, Land Rights & Peace.
*Warning: Medical terms may cause offence! We’re not dissing you. Just talking about the situation.

“Whenever I go to jail, I get put in a strip cell in underwear and injected with Largactil” Ex-prisoner with historical diagnosis of schizophrenia. (Largactil is an old-style heavy-duty anti-psychotic with drastic physical and mental effects, also known as “chemical straitjacket”)

On the “outside” is a social justice emergency damning people with psychiatric, intellectual, neurological and developmental diagnoses and difficulties (PIND D&D) to poverty, homelessness, the removal of rights, institutional abuse and being capsicum sprayed by the police.

Like other oppressed groups, our life is criminalised by the injustice of law.

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The Community Policy

New South Wales Australia
September 1995

ADOPTED BY:
AIDS Council of NSW, NSW Users and AIDS Association, Hepatitis C Council of NSW, The Gender Centre, Prisoners Action Group Justice Action, Aboriginal Deaths In Custody Watch Committee

ENDORSED BY:
National Centre in HIV Social Research, Macquarie University, Redfern Legal Centre, Drug Law Reform Committee, NSW Council for Civil Liberties

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Policy Proposal

 Comps in cells 1

Justice Action has been campaigning for Computers in Cells since 1998, though the New South Wales government and the Department of Corrective Services has blocked any progress.  This rejection of progress by the NSW government is based on misinformed security concerns, the ignorance of prison administration, and the decision of the NSW government to favour political point scoring over pragmatic policy making, to the detriment of prisoners and the broader community at large.

Although the timeline begins in 1998, this article focuses on the most recent JA policy proposal regarding Computers in Cells, published in 2012.

 


 There is currently no provision of computers in individual cells in NSW or most prisons around the world. NSW Correctional Centres provide shared classrooms where inmates may access computers for limited number of hours under supervision provided they submit an ‘Offender Application for Access to Computers’ and agree to the ‘Guidelines for Offenders Using Computers’.  Managers must ensure that “desktop computers are used for work, education, training and/or legal use”.  Under Section 5.4.1.3, “the offender’s access to the desktop computer is to be withdrawn immediately” if supervision cannot be provided and often this means that access to computers is limited and that prisoners face educational setbacks. Meanwhile, most TAFE and university courses now require regular access to computers. A report by the Employment, Education and Training References Committee notes, “it is becoming increasingly common for enrolment into courses to be conditional on having access to a computer and in some instances, to a modem as well so that two-way communication will be possible”.  

As a result of the inaccessibility of computers under the status quo, only 1.3% of NSW prisoners are engaged in higher education.  This is a particularly significant problem because 60% of inmates in NSW did not complete year 10 in the first place. The onus for improving this situation lies squarely with government. Between 2003 and 2004, 39% of prisoners participated in courses offered by the Adult Education and Vocational Training Institute, showing a desire for self-improvement when the opportunity was available. 


Considering the inadequacy of communal computer facilities and taking into account the success of the above examples, Justice Action proposes the provision of individual computers in cells for prisoners. These computers should be equipped with

● Email capability so that inmates may keep in touch with family, friends and teachers so that they may complete their learning and successfully reintegrate into society upon the completion of their incarceration
● Access to legal resources whether in the form of CD-ROMs or online resources such as Austli
● Programs vital to the inmate’s vocational or tertiary learning if study is being undertaken. The availability of such programs will also encourage further education among those who have yet to consider such a step.
● Access to web-based resources so that inmates may search for and apply for employment opportunities as they approach their release date.


Justice Action has already received a great deal of interest from organisations wishing to contribute to this project. The provision of computers will be at virtually no cost to the Department of Corrective Services NSW as these computers can be sourced from companies who regularly turn over their stock of computers or from other government departments. Furthermore, most computers whose hardware is less than five years old are compatible with the requisite software to maintain the security and efficient operation of this system (see 4.2 Software) and this provides a large scope from which computers can be taken. Such a model of supply also has applicability on the international stage due to the rapid replacement of computers at major companies.


One obvious concern with the implementation of such a program is that of security and abuse of the system. However, established software, such as Cyber PrisonPC, allows for easy surveillance and management of any unauthorised computer use while maintaining the educational benefits of computer access. PrisonPC promises a “centrally managed computing system, enabling custodial staff to manage all desktops from a single, isolated location” and desktops which are “resilient to any method of permanent user modification or unauthorised changes”.

With regards the applications of such software, PrisonPC includes:

● Complete office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, etc)
● PDF document viewer
● Educational software
● Games (solitaire, etc)
● Extensive online help

Furthermore, prisoners may also be given access to an approved list of websites and a secure email so that they may contact a restricted and monitored amount of people (such as their solicitor and family members), similar to their existing managed telephone access. Indeed, the current system used by the NSW Department of Education and Training to control prisoners’ access to Internet sources through the use of an intranet system that puts appropriate limits on the information prisoners can access online.


While Justice Action has considered and addressed various concerns arising from the proposed installation of computers in cells, we recognise that inmates may still abuse the system. In such an event, it is necessary that authorities recognise the principle of individual responsibility as opposed to collective responsibility, ensuring that only those inmates who abuse the system should be punished. Imposing punishments on the entire prison due to the transgressions of select prisoners will have the negative effect of setting back the educational aspirations of the entire prison community. In the event that abuses of the computers in cells system does occur, transgressors should be dealt with individually, allowing the other prisoners to enjoy the continued educational benefits proposed by the computer program.


It is essential that some formal principles about computer access for people in detention are immediately established, as this is basic to any serious attempt to nationally implement a computers in cells (CIC) program. The aim is to fully defend the CIC system against any abuses that could place the community, prisons or prison staff at risk.

By examining several cases where prisoners have abused computers, we have developed the ‘Gold Standards’ that all CIC programs should abide by. Through these ‘Gold Standards’ we additionally intend to pre-emptively address any security concerns relating to the implementation of computers in prisoners’ cells.

Gold Standards:

● Logging, Monitoring and Storage of each user’s session.
● Print Accounts ensure all printed material is monitored and linkable to a specific individual.
● Restricted Memory/Storage Devices guarantee that prisoners may only view material on staff approved devices. Prisoners are unable to upload material or view content that has not been approved.
● Email Restrictions mean prisoners may only email approved correspondents. Additionally, all email passes through a security filtration system monitored by staff. (Refer to section 4.2)
● Website Restrictions allow prisoners access to approved sites only.
● Enforced Curfews determine when computers automatically shut down.
● Regular Hardware Checks by prison staff ensure no tampering has occurred.


While the cost of providing a computer for each cell may seem prohibitive, the reality that this that this program would run a minimal short-term loss and quickly move into a position to actually save money for the Department of Corrective Services and the taxpayer (as will be discussed in 6.5 – Benefits of Cost and Morality for the state). As has been mentioned in 4.1 – Supply, numerous companies have already registered an interest in supplying free, used computers for such a program. Furthermore, in facilities such as the Nowra Prison in NSW, there is already wiring set up for the provision of computers for each prisoner – all that is required is the political will to take action.


The provision of individual computers for prisoners has numerous benefits. The immediate outcome, of course, is that personal computers can be used to minimise confrontation and disruption within the prison system. Furthermore, by granting prisoners access to legal resources this scheme can reduce bureaucratic clutter and promote a greater understanding by prisoners of how the law operates – providing a deterrent for future criminal activity. Meanwhile, in the long term this model also acts to lower recidivism. Boosting levels of prisoner education improves prisoner rehabilitation: a process which is not only beneficial for the prisoners, but also for the Department of Corrective Services which will have a smaller population of prisoners who re-offend to cater for.


Personal computers offer significant opportunities for prisoners – even if this is only to reduce boredom.  As a result, the presence of a computer provides a major behavioural incentive for prisoners to behave and not abuse this privilege. The computer provides ease of access for communication with family as well as other simple distractions and prisoners will want to maintain this and so are less likely to risk their removal through inappropriate actions. All of this means that prison management will have another tool with which to control the prison population and maintain order.


Computers provide prisoners with access to legal resources to assist with their cases. For instance, prisoners are able to read and respond to briefs, and access transcripts and legal Acts which are available on CD-ROMs. Computers also provide access to online legal resources, such as those provided by the Australasian Legal Information Institution (Austlii). This information will assist prisoners in accessing evidentiary and other materials relied upon by the police in court cases without difficulty. 


 The first opportunity that personal computers offer for prisoners is the chance to improve computer literacy. Computer literacy is an increasingly vital requirement for everyday life; it significantly affects education, vocational training and career prospects. Very few jobs do not involve consistent interaction with a computer. By denying these skills, DCS is relegating ex-inmates to manual labour and similar arduous occupations. Furthermore, many female prisoners find aptitude with computers give them a great advantage when they returned home, allowing them to help their children with technical problems. 


One of the keys to successfully rehabilitating prisoners into society is providing a set of relationships for them to fall back on in the outside world. Access to regular email with family through this scheme allows for the prisoners to maintain these connections and retain a sense of self-worth that will encourage them to improve their situation through study (also facilitated by the computers)! Furthermore, as beneficial as such a relationship is to the prisoner, it also allows for peace of mind for the families of those imprisoned. Indeed, by being able to communicate with that father, mother, brother or aunt, family members will themselves be less likely to offend due to a reduction in feelings of isolation. 


The most important aspect of this scheme is that it encourages prisoner education. Computers, to a far greater extent than any previously available resource, allow prisoners to successfully move towards a TAFE or university qualification, and do so in a far more user-friendly method than any prison library or occasional prison educational course. Why is education particularly important for prisoners though? It is important because there is a clear correlation between one’s level of education and the probability of committing a crime. 

 

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Justice Action
Trades Hall, Level 2, Suite 204
4 Goulburn Street
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

T 02 9283 0123
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E ja@justiceaction.org.au
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