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Home Detention

Home Detention is an alternative to incarceration where the offender serves their sentence in a confined area at an approved residence for a specific period of time, pursuant to the Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act. Although often given to offenders with less serious convictions, home detention has some serious problems. These include the shift of the financial burden from the state to families, and the net-widening effect whereby prisons fill up regardless of such diversionary programs. In addition there are significant emotional and psychological pressures placed upon the families who are forced to accommodate the roles of both prisoner and prison officer.

Click here for the full report

Comparing Zoos and Prisons: Worse Than Animals

Media Release Monday November 23, 2015 

A unique analysis launched today reveals that Taronga Zoo's gorillas are legally given twenty four times more space than people held inside the private Parklea prison. They are provided natural habitats and have enforceable rights. Additionally NSW Premier Mike Baird has pledged $57 million to improve the facilities of Taronga Zoo as part of the government’s ‘Restart NSW’ infrastructure project. A key part is to upgrade the gorilla enclosure.  

Download analysis here. 

The recent Inspector of Custodial Services 'Full House' Report declared 'the state treats inmates in a way that denies them a modicum of dignity and humanity.' At a later forum prison authorities questioned the need for each prisoner having 5.5 square metres space in a cell held for 18.5 hours a day, stating that there is 'no science behind the existing public health regulation' and received exemption from the Health Minister. There is no mechanism for enforcement or punishment for breaches.

That publicly exposed lack of enforceable standards in prisons was the stimulation for this unique analysis, not previously undertaken anywhere, comparing conditions for people locked in prisons with animals in zoos.

The difference in treatment is because animals in zoos are deliberately exposed to the public eye, whereas people in prison are isolated away from the public eye where their humanity is denied, and they are vilified as criminals. Their conditions in cages and cells are not visible, their anguish as people is not seen, and therefore the administration is not accountable.

This report recommends accountability through media access to the prison system. It observes that degrading treatment rather than assistance causes crime. It proposes that overcrowding due to the 12.5% yearly increase of the prison population should cease by adopting alternative sentencing measures. 

We call upon NSW Premier Mike Baird to reallocate the Taronga Zoo funding to the NSW prison system. Long promised computers in cells with online counselling to lessen crime should be prioritised before gorillas’ luxuries. Political grandstanding with tough on crime policies like chemical castration and lifers’ rights are now seen as public jokes.

Victims

What is a victim?

A victim is someone who has suffered a loss, possibly having been harmed as a result of some accident, crime or other action. The loss they suffer may be physical, through some external injury to the body. The loss may also be mental or intellectual, perhaps through bullying or other verbal attack, or through a loss of reputation. Finally, victimhood may come from financial harm, such as through stealing, destruction of property, or a stock market crash. In common, a victim is “one who has no choice”.[1] 

All people are ‘victims’ to some degree, as we all have some exposure, whether limited or great, to grief and loss.

The misfortunes or poor treatment of victims can cause them to feel helpless, and isolated, and they grieve for their harm and the life they once led. Some may move on from their experiences, finding solace in hard work, individual betterment, or even spirituality and religion. Others may become depressed, obsess over their damaged lifestyle, or develop a victim mentality. The scars, physical or otherwise, may never fully heal; they bear the burden of their victimhood for the rest of their lives.

In many cases, the severity of the harm or injury may cause flow-on effects to a person’s family and wider society, who must learn to cope with the change and assist in the victim’s attempts to normalise their lifestyle. Community support, through compensation, and development programs, can help them to reconcile themselves to the injury they have suffered.

Victims of crime

Every crime involves commission of a legal wrong, and involves a perpetrator and one or more victims. Crime victims are people who have been “threatened, harmed or killed, by another person”.[2] The central focus in the aftermath should always be community compassion, recognising the experience of the victim of the crime. The needs of the victim should be addressed first before the offender.

This should primarily involve giving the victim the health or social support they need to deal with the damage they have suffered, and generous financial compensation to indicate community care. The state then takes over the role of the harmed through the justice system to deal with the offender. Victims assist by publicly giving evidence in court. Coronial hearings ensure justice is seen to be done for the whole community. This process depersonalises the punishment, removes the desire for personal vengeance, and focuses on ensuring future safety for all in our civilised community. The maximum punishment is imprisonment and necessarily consequential losses. Revenge beatings or torture are illegal. Differential treatment of prisoners is only permissible as a security issue rather than relating to the unpopularity of the crime or offender. It is significant to note that often, the offenders of crimes are victims first.

Victims of crime may have a variety of responses in the short or long term to their harm. Most people will experience stages of disbelief, shock, sorrow, grief, numbness and anger.[3] Some may return to a regular lifestyle and move beyond the event. Others cannot forget the experience, and the heinousness of the crime increases the pain of the memories. The suffering caused by a crime “changes the lives of many more than the direct victims”.[4] Hence this issue is no less poignant for families of victims of violent crime, who through the loss of a parent, child, sibling or other relative will also carry painful memories of the experience.

It is the responsibility of the community to support victims and their families so that they may deal with their grief and loss. The focus should be on restorative justice if possible; reconciliation of the victim with their injury, reconciliation with the community who has helped them to cope, and reconciliation with the perpetrator who caused the harm.

The case of Andrew Garforth

The responsibility of the state was made clear following the criminal trial of Andrew Garforth. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1993 for the rape and murder of Ebony Simpson in 1992.  The loss of her daughter has understandably been hardest felt by Ebony’s mother, Christine Simpson.

In July 2015, the Serious Offenders Review Council made a decision to lower Garforth’s prisoner classification from A2 (maximum security) to B (medium security), making him eligible to apply for work and rehabilitation courses. The Council notified Mrs Simpson. She contacted the media. The story was broadcast on TV Channel 9 A Current Affair on the 13th of July 2015.[5]

Mrs Simpson then created a successful online petition, collecting 30,000 signatures in 24 hours, to have the reclassification revoked. The public outrage that followed and Christine’s Simpson petition drove Corrective Services Minister David Elliott to revoke the classification decision and return Garforth to his original maximum-security classification. Mr Elliott stated: “I have come over the top of the Serious Offenders Review Council and have today instructed the Commissioner that Garforth gets zip.”[6]

A Current Affair quoted Justice Action’s coordinator as having said that the Simpson family “needs to get over it”.[7] However that was not true. The transcript shows our statement focussed on the reconciliation of both the family and Garforth:

“It’s a shame for the family to still hold onto such anger towards the man after such a long period, after twenty three years. It’s a good thing for him and a good thing for the community. It’s absolutely essential that Corrective Services does focus on moving him into a lighter less security place. It’s to their benefit, everybody’s benefit, that he can then move on and get some measure of freedom and improvement. It’s a really sad thing to have lost their child but to link it to the man, to the offender, is a shame. They should at some stage, clear the air, move on with their lives, and let him move on with his life as well”.[8]

Justice Action encourages victims and their families to achieve a sense of personal closure, focussing on moving past their anger, and through the help of the wider community to be guided towards leading a more normal life.

Politicising grief

David Elliott’s revocation of Garforth’s classification decision could be viewed as an act of political opportunism.  After Ms Simpson sparked public outrage about Garforth’s reclassification, Elliott made a number of statements; arguing that “this [the reclassification] is not what this government was elected for” and also that “it is essential that any reclassification of prisoners reflects community expectations”.[9] 

However he is wrong as is shown by the Corrective Services NSW manual. Classification isn't a form of punishment, but is a security rating. It is clear that he exploited the anger and grief of victims to be seen to be tough and to justify wrongful punishment rather than defend Garforth's entitlements. The Minister abused his authority and supported the misunderstanding of the law.

Involvement of victims in the classification process runs counter to the rehabilitative purposes of sentencing. The decision of NSW Prisons Commissioner Peter Severin to meet with the families of victims of NSW ‘lifers’ will do more harm. It will refresh their pain, link them firmly to the offenders and allow them to influence decisions which should ultimately be made by the justice system generally.

Politicians see a benefit for themselves by upgrading punishment, but it really reflects their lack of care for victims. Mrs Simpson had no support until she publicly demonstrated her grief and anger on national television with a victims' organisation beside her. It reflected how abandoned she felt and was an embarrassment to all who watched.

This was again highlighted by the struggle of Katrina Keshishian. After being the victim of a violent sexual assault, Ms Keshishian had to go public with her story to get the victims' compensation she deserved. The government had reduced victims' payments, but she was successful in getting her claim reassessed.[10] Government has been mean and unresponsive to victims' personal needs but has tried to satisfy them with more pain for the offenders, as a return to the failed system of vengeance.

Role of victims in sentencing and security classification

Victims have the ability to submit Victim Impact Statements prior to sentencing. During the process of security reclassification, they may also make submissions to the Review council regarding the change, which must be considered by the Review Council before it makes a decision.[11]

However, Corrective Services has the final responsibility for dealing with offences after sentencing. Andrew Garforth has served 23 years of his life sentence, making him eligible for a change in security classification as per Corrective Services’ policies and procedures.

Reclassification is ultimately a decision for the welfare of the offender, and while security changes should consider the impact upon victims and their families, their primary focus should ultimately be on the prisoner.

Conclusion

Overall, allowing community vitriol to be directed at prisoners like Andrew Garforth distracts from society’s compassion for victims and their families, and does not help with their reintegration into everyday life. Politicisation of grief is deplorable, and undermines the welfare of victims, their families, and the prisoners under scrutiny.

References

    1. Enough is Enough, Victim of Crime Support (30 July 2015), Anti-Violence Movement Inc., <http://www.enoughisenough.org.au/?s=victim>.
    2. VOCAL, Welcome to VOCAL (2015), Victims of Crime Assistance League, <http://vocal.org.au/>
    3. HVSG, Grief – Understanding Your Reactions (20 August 2015), Homicide Victims’ Support Group, <http://hvsg.com.au/index.php/support/grief-understanding-your-reactions/>
    4. VOCAL, Welcome to VOCAL (2015), Victims of Crime Assistance League, <http://vocal.org.au/>
    5. Channel 9, ‘Ebony’, A Current Affair, 13 July 2015 <https://www.9news.com.au/a-current-affair>
    6. Miles Godfrey, ‘Ebony Simpson’s killer Andrew Peter Garforth will ‘die in jail’ says Corrective Services Minister David Elliott’, The Daily Telegraph (online), 21 August 2015, <http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/ebony-simpsons-killer-andrew-peter-garforth-will-die-in-jail-says-corrective-services-minister-david-elliott/story-fni0cx12-1227441075006>
    7. Channel 9, above n 2.
    8. Ibid.
    9. Godfrey, above n 3.
    10. Tim Barlass, ‘NSW Premier Mike Baird admits crime compensation 'mistake' after Katrina Keshishian campaign’, The Sydney Morning Herald (online), 15 March 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/nsw-state-election-2015/nsw-premier-mike-baird-admits-crime-compensation-mistake-after-katrina-keshishian-campaign-20150313-143kgb.html>
    11. Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999 (NSW) s 68.

Denying Education to the Willing

Update: Jeffrey achieves more fantastic results! August 2017
Justice Action would like to greatly congratulate Jeffrey for earning a distinction result in the subject LAW00108, "Legal and Conveying Practice". Jeffrey deserves full credit for his incredible dedication and work ethic, and we look forward to seeing more fantastic results in the future. 

UPDATE: Jeffrey achieves excellent uni results! December 12, 2016
Jeffery McKane, a prisoner that is working to complete his education by distance, has recently achieved excellent results in his Legal Research and Writing class Southern Cross University. 
UPDATE: University Textbook Access August, 2016
In a victory not only for Jeffrey McKane, but for all prisoners’ access to education, Justice Action has now succeeded in providing Mr McKane with access to the textbooks that are necessary to support his legal education.

The Jeffrey McKane Story

Access to education is severely and unnecessarily restricted to individuals in the criminal justice system even to those who are proactive and willing to undertake study.

Prior to being incarcerated, Jeffrey McKane was embarking on a law degree at the University of New England. Goulburn Correctional Centre permitted Mr McKane to complete the Torts Law subject he was already studying, however upon its completion he was told he could not continue with his studies. After repeated applications to the prison staff and the Commissioner for Corrective Services, he remains unable to continue his law studies, nor is he able to engage in any other education for the purposes of rehabilitation, such as art.

On 27 February 2014, Mr McKane applied to the Supreme Court by way of a summons seeking orders for CSNSW to grant him access to his studies. However, a decision was made on 12 June 2015 that the matter could not be pursued, as the court could not engage in a merits review of the decisions made by CSNSW. Following this decision, Mr McKane was ordered to cover for the costs of CSNSW of the proceedings, the cost of which is unknown.

The denial of such education is a direct breach of Article 6 of the United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners, which states that:

All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality’.

Mr McKane has also been denied access to the education block this year, which limits his access to a computer. In the wings there are only two computers available, which are shared between approximately 160 inmates. Without access to the education block there are no other computer resources available to him.

Mr McKane was first advised in 2013 by education staff in Goulburn Correctional Centre that he could not continue his studies because he was a remand prisoner. An administrative review of this decision was lodged with the NSW Ombudsman who referred it to the original decision maker, the Corrective Services Commissioner, who at the time was Ron Woodham. The commissioner upheld the previous decision that MrMcKanecould not continue with his degree as a remand prisoner and should make another application once sentenced.

In a letter addressed to Mr McKane on 17 June 2013, the Corrective Services Commissioner told Mr McKane ‘each application is assessed on an individual basis’. It is interesting and questionable to see how this assessment on an individual basis changes once the remand prisoner is a notable person such as Harriet Wran. Harriet, the daughter of former NSW Premier Neville Wran, remains in Silverwater Correctional Facility on remand for the murder of Daniel McNulty. Despite her status as a remand prisoner, Miss Wran has been able to continue her studies in Modern History at the University of Sydney by correspondence (Hills and Bashan, 2015, 'Harriet’s secret bid to cut a deal', Sunday Telegraph).

The NSW Corrective Services Commissioner repeatedly inhibited Mr McKane’s access to education, citing inadequate resources and limited staffing to supervise and download the required educational materials. This was highly disappointing.

Through Justice Action’s intervention, as of 25 May 2016 Mr McKane has been given access to study a law course at Southern Cross University (SCU). Justice Action is incredibly thankful to SCU for recognising Mr McKane’s immense potential. Justice Action supported Mr McKane’s educational endeavours by accessing online lecture materials on his behalf, taking responsibility for his student email and administrative matters, as well as providing a retired teacher (linked to the Teachers Federation) to supervise and be present during Mr McKane’s examinations.

Inadequacy of Resources:

Mr McKane has been told that he will not be able to access education as there are limited resources and that the facility would not be able to provide staff to download the required lecture materials.

However, it looks like this issue can be resolved through self-funding of his study. Mr McKane has suggested that changing the current printing arrangements for inmates combined with the potential for the required materials to be placed on a CD-ROM by the university or by Justice Action would remove any drain on resources.

On 9 July 2015, JA offered to CSNSW regarding what money did CSNSW require to pay for McKane’s cost of potential resources. There has been no response so far.

The mechanism for a CD-ROM to be provided by the university and sent to Mr McKane was subsequently raised and he is currently awaiting a response from University of New England Special Needs Office. The office has indicated that it will be able to process this request once confirmation has been received from the Education Officer at the Goulburn Correction Centre that Mr McKane has permission to continue his studies whilst incarcerated. Thus far, the Commissioner has neither confirmed nor denied Mr McKane permission, despite Mr McKane's willingness to pay for his own studies using the money that he makes from working in the textiles factory along with assistance from the Justice Action team and family support.

Mr McKane has also sought to purchase his laptop computer and printer due to ‘the extreme difficulties’ that he has ‘endured since incarceration’. As of 31 July 2015, this request has been denied.

Mr McKane has suggested that he has been targeted by officials and has been unfairly discriminated against. He speculates that this may be due to his eagerness to study a law degree or his willingness to seek judicial review for their refusal to allow him access to education. In making this argument, Mr McKane pointed to the fact that other inmates this year had been approved for tertiary education with the University of New England. However his application has continued to be rejected.

In addition, Mr McKane has argued that under a self-funded model the total and only resources required to facilitate his study would be supervision for one exam per subject studied and the arrangement of ordering textbooks.

Prioritising Low Ability and Employability:

In a letter dated 29 June 2015, Justice Action received from the Corrective Services Commissioner, Peter Severin, regarding Mr McKane’s case, he explains that ‘CSNSW continues to prioritise resources towards inmates that have the greatest learning needs like inmates with low literacy and numeracy skills, and inmates requiring significant assistance to increase the likelihood of employment upon release’.

As Mr McKane has a strong education and employment background he has been deemed a low priority in the provision of education. This raises serious questions in light of the offers made by Mr McKane to fund his own studies and the limited resources required by him.

Education is a basic human right pursuant to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which all deserve access, irrespective of social or economic status or personal circumstance. Accordingly, Australia formally acknowledged its recognition of and commitment to this right (Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).

Furthermore, according to the University of New England policies, Mr McKane’s degree must be completed within ten years of starting the course. This would mean that Mr McKane would be unable to complete the remainder of his degree with his current subjects set to expire. This seems to be a strong argument in favour of why it would be practical for Mr McKane to be able to continue his studies in order to facilitate his post-release rehabilitation and employment. 

Launch

The strike was launched at a news conference in Trades Hall at 12 noon, Thursday August 6

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 Media attending strike launch

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The Inspector's Report

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Symbolic ending of overcrowded prisons 

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Tracy Brannigan Action Plan

 

 

 

 

Sickness Effects of Tobacco Ban

Sickness Effects of Tobacco Ban

Introduction

The tobacco ban has a direct impact on prisoners who regularly smoke as it will expose them to the sickness effects of nicotine withdrawal. This also has further implications for any employment that they are undertaking.

Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms

Nicotine withdrawal symptoms refer to the changes in your mood, behaviour, and body when you stop smoking.

The following withdrawal symptoms significantly affect a person’s ability to work:                                                                    

Mental Physical
  • Depressed mood
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Sleeping disturbances
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Cramps
  • Nausea

 

The Duration That Withdrawal Systems Last For

Withdrawal symptoms appear within 24 hours but can extend over several weeks.

It takes up to six months after quitting for some people to feel better than when they smoked regularly. Even then, some report no improvement in how they feel.

An increase in appetite may last for six months or more. Most people do gain some weight when they stop smoking, which mostly occurs in the first one or two years after they quit. However, research with women show that in the long term, the average weight of ex-smokers is similar to people who have never smoked.

Most symptoms abate by four weeks' abstinence from smoking, with the exception of increased appetite and decreased heart rate, which may persist for longer than 10 weeks. The urge to smoke, especially when under stress, may persist for much longer. Most symptoms are reduced by nicotine replacement therapy, the exceptions being night-time awakening and decreased adrenaline and cortisol levels, about which more research is needed.

Implications for Employment

These symptoms reduce productivity and performance in the workplace, which may prove to be costly in the long-term. They can lead to tension, disputes, and accidents especially where physical work is involved.

The impacts of smoking bans can be especially severe on those who have a hostile trait based on cynical attitudes and a general mistrust of others. Ongoing studies have shown that their nicotine withdrawal symptoms will worsen due to tobacco deprivation.

  1. http://www.quit.org.au/about/frequently-asked-questions/faq-smoking-withdrawal/faq-withdrawal-symptoms.html
  2. http://www.quitsmokingsupport.com/withdrawal1.htm
  3. Alexander V. Prokhorov, Carl A. de Moor, Karen Suchanek Hudmon, Steven H. Kelder, Jennifer L. Conroy, and Nicole Ordway, Nicotine dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and adolescents' readiness to quit smoking, Nicotine Tob Res (2001) 3 (2): 151-155 doi:10.1080/14622200124778
  4. Austin Quinn, Stephanie Sekimura, Raina Pang, Michal Trujillo, Christopher W. Kahler, and Adam M. Leventhal, Hostility as a Predictor of Affective Changes During Acute Tobacco Withdrawal, Nicotine Tob Res (2014) 16 (3): 335-342 first published online October 10, 2013 doi:10.1093/ntr/ntt151

Prisoners’ rights

In Victoria, there are, of course, restrictions placed on prisoners’ lives due to the unique features of the prison environment, which requires a balancing of security and welfare concerns by correctional administrators. However, prisoners are basically entitled to the same rights as other citizens, with the only qualification on such rights being the legislative rules and regulations relating to their incarceration. In short, prisoners possess those rights that are consistent with the good order, management and security of the prison. (Law Handbook- Victoria)

According to Australian Human Rights Commission, The United Nations Human Rights Committee has made it clear that prisoners enjoy all the rights in theInternational Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR), subject to 'restrictions that are unavoidable in a closed environment'. (General Comment No.21)

https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/rights-and-freedoms/projects/prisoners-rights

Unstructured & Self-directed Education

  • Religion
  • Indigenous Culture
  • Art
  • Resources

At Justice Action, we believe that education extends beyond courses designed to focus released individuals into future employment; education is self-directed, and improves the wellbeing of prisoners and forensic patients. Educational access increases the awareness of an individual’s rights – to freedom of religion, health services, and access to legal services. It carries enormous potential, not merely to facilitate individual development, but also as a positive outlet and use of a prisoner’s energy and time. An unstructured view of education highlights the importance of access to books, CDs, DVDs, and the Internet, to allowing prisoners and forensic patients to learn at their own pace and about the topics which engage and interest them. In the face of the long, tedious hours prisoners and forensic patients are subject to whilst incarcerated, education services could potentially reduce the use of illicit substances, amongst other self-harmful behaviours, which are used in an effort to ‘pass the time’. Education provides an opportunity to enrich individuals spiritually and culturally, through connection with art, music, and religion. 

iExpress

Latest News
SA Ombudsman Defends iExpress
Wayne Lines, the South Australian ombudsman, has found JA to be a multipurpose advocacy organisation. Therefore, the banning of South Australian prisoners communication to JA and therefore access to iExpress has been found to be "unreasonable". The Chief Executive and Minister for Correctional Services have been notified. JA is now in dialogue. Currently all Australian states and territories except SA have accepted the role of iExpress.  
For more information view here

Overview
Justice Action is proud to introduce iExpress, the world’s first prisoner webpage and interactive email system aimed at empowering people in prisons and forensic hospitals, bringing them into the digital world, and reducing the divide and social exclusion that currently exists. They will now have the opportunity to access an exciting new channel of self-expression and communication, free of charge. iExpress has been acknowledged by Huffington Post, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the world’s most popular blog.

iExpress generates a personalised webpage, which allows people in prisons and hospitals to make a personal statement that addresses their current feelings and attitudes. This is in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which protects the rights of expression and personal opinion under articles 2, 3, 12, 18, 19, 22 and 27.

The iExpress email service allows people in prisons and hospitals to send and receive email messages to and from members of the general community.

iExpress has the support of victims' groups and provides a platform for restorative justice and reconciliation with the community. Justice Action will not publish webpages including anything defamatory, aggressive or showing ill will.

Each of these services is under the direct control of the Justice Action team, who actively review content to ensure that the service fulfills the aims of iExpress.

iExpress can be accessed here.

Media Attention
iExpress has received media attention from ‘Today’, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, and from ‘Herald Sun’. The ‘Herald Sun’ dubs iExpress as “Facebook for prisoners” and Chris Urquhart states that “some profiles read like personal ads”.

The article from ‘Today’ can be found here.  

‘Today’ contacted the Corrective Services Department of each state and territory in regards to iExpress. Their responses were unanimous. Each Department found that the iExpress website does not constitute a breach under any policies and procedures as it is conducted by an independent third party.

Their full statements are available to view here.

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