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Education Rights

Prison Issues

Hangzhou Prison Delegation Visit Nov. 2017

A delegation of six Chinese prison bureaucrats from the Hangzhou Municipal Justice Bureau, visited Justice Action on the 15th November. The delegates from the Zhejiang province, China were led by Deputy Director Mr Zhang Liansheng. They wanted to know about our operations, how we represent prisoners’ interests and improve the social and mental health of prisoners. They also wanted to exchange information and ideas, as well as to set up a friendly relationship.

JA described its unique position in being the voice for prisoners and forensic patients. Specific emphasis is placed on restorative justice as an alternative to prison, lessening isolation during imprisonment for prisoners through Computers in Cells and improving relationships with victims.

The Women’s Justice Network (WJN) joined us where the president, Kat Armstrong presented her work in improving the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system through mentoring. Kat statistically presented the rates of incarcerated females being 15 times the rate of males, and the WJN revealed a 7% recidivism rate for women, whereas the typical recidivism rate in the criminal justice system is 51% per year.

JA explained how it is independent and not government funded, instead supported by the social enterprise Breakout Media Communications. Restorative Justice was mentioned as an alternative to prison and aids resettlement back into the community. Mr Zhang understood the implementation of mediation (tiaojie) as means of reconciliation between all involved parties. Secondly, the concept of lessening isolation during imprisonment ultimately reduces recidivism and makes reintegration into society easier. This is achievable through Computers in Cells which provides the opportunity of communication between prisoners and their families, as well as making online counselling more accessible. Finally by offering ‘shelter, safety, social support and positive activity’ post-release it provides help for inmates to become positive contributors to society.

It was clear that all six Chinese prison bureaucrats from the justice administration of Hangzhou respected our presentation. They particularly focused their questions through an interpreter on how the state government approved many of these various reformative measures to ensure inmates are rehabilitated. They also acknowledged the intricacies of the reconciliation process and provided information about restorative justice measures whereby a victim and offender were all placed in the same room with a mediator, and all parties are able to voice their position in regards to the incident. Kat noted that this was particularly successful within Aboriginal communities in current pilot programs.

JA explained its ‘Computers in Cells’ campaign where prisoners can use online resources to communicate with family, obtain job and life skills, receive education and report complaints to relevant authorities. The ACT has had computers in cells for 8 years and is operating safety and effectively. Zhang Liansheng asked whether prisoners have unlimited access to the Internet and whether this would need prison staff’s approval. The delegates became attentive after we explained that Internet access is filtered through a centrally controlled server and the computers will have only white-listed websites and five email addresses available. Kat Armstrong further adds that online counselling for domestic violence offenders is imperative and family contact is also important in reducing recidivism.

The meeting ended on a positive note with the exchange of gifts, photos and laughs. A video record was taken, and can be found on Youtube here. The leader of the delegation Mr Zhang welcomed JA to be his guests in a visit to the Hangzhou prison system, and JA agreed to take up the invitation.

IMG 6781Delegation, JA & WJN

 

IMG 3546JA hosts

 

International Interactions

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LATEST NEWS
China Hangzhou Prison Delegation Visit 15th November 2017
Chinese Prison Delegation Visit 10th August 2017
Youth Access - International Survey on Computers in Cells

To assist the work of Justice Action in the local community of Australia, and to promote criminal justice worldwide, we study also the prison conditions in other jurisdictions outside Australia. Recent work includes a meeting with Chinese Prison Delegation and an International Survey on youth access of computers in cells.

Chinese Prison Delegation Visit

On 10 August 2017, Justice Action had a meeting with a delegation of 24 officials of the Bureau of Prison Administration, People's Republic of China. We presented to them our work on supporting a better system of reintegration by reducing the distance of prisoners from the community, and the delegation talked to us about the restorative justice system in China. Both JA and the Delegation benefited from the meeting.

International Survey - Youth Access of Computers in Cells

Computers in Cells is one of our major campaigns in Justice Action. We have studied the access of computers for juvenile offenders all over the world, and found it desirable for the youth offenders in New South Wales, and in all of Australia to have computers in Cells. Such services can provide prisoners with the opportunities to have access to email, education services and counselling services which would reduce their reoffending rate upon release. Currently, in the Alexander Maconochie Center, ACT, all prisoners have access to computers in cells, and the effect of such policy is significantly beneficial to the rehabilitation of prisoners.

 

 

 

Chinese Prison Delegation Visit 10th August 2017

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Full Report - Chinese Prison Delegation Visit
Video Presentation of the meeting

JA presented to the top 24 bureaucrats from the Bureau of Prison Administration of the People’s Republic of China on the 10th of August 2017. Earlier they visited Long Bay and Silverwater prisons, as well as a briefing from Corrective Services NSW.

We were asked to present prisoners’ views on resettlement and how our experiences could help them. We invited the Women’s Justice Network to join us. Two flyers including Chinese translations were distributed to the officials.

Click here to read our presentation paper to the Bureau of Prison Administration.
Click here to read the paper of WJN about women prisoners.

JA presented the benefits of social support and access to communication via computers in cells, amidst a spirited series of questions from the Chinese officials. We highlighted our independence funded by Breakout Media Communications.

The Women’s Justice Network (WJN) presented its experience of mentoring and particular problems for women prisoners

Huang Lanzheng, the Director-General of the Bureau of Prison Administration said he respected our work. He particularly appreciated our influence on criminal justice policy reform.  He said that in China there are programs similar to restorative justice, but said “we still have something to learn from you … three things we can still learn from you are the protection of prisoners after release, reduce isolation, and restorative justice”. 

Huang Lanzheng said he felt comfortable talking directly with us, and appreciated the benefit of our experience. They all clapped and we shook hands agreeing to work together in the future on the issues of mentoring, use of technology to lessen isolation and the formation of NGO support.

Click here to read our Media Release - China Prison Bosses Ask Australia For Help
Click
here to read our Research Paper - Prisons in China 

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NSW Exposed In Australian Government Report

ROGS

Latest News:
Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2017

Overview:
Released on the 31st of January 2017, the Report on Government Services demonstrates the failure of the NSW corrections system. Firstly, NSW has the most time in cells of all Australian jurisdictions, where prisoners spend 17.5 hours inside their cell per day for secure facilities where most prisoners are held (Table 8A.12 on p.475). Remand prisoners are held for 18.5 hours a day in cells according to the Full House Report by the Inspector General s4.56. It has got worse each year as you can see from that Commonwealth Report on Government Services.

Furthermore, NSW has the worse recidivism of all states and is getting worse. Defined as returning to prison under sentence within two years, last years recidivism rate stood at 50.7%, up from 48.1% the year before and 45.8 in 2014 (See Table C.5 on p.23). This is a total failure compared to the State Plan. NSW State priority in the State Plan:

The plan aims to make safer communities by Reduce adult re-offending by five per cent by 2019, though reoffending rates in NSW are increasing, with the majority of prisoners in the state having offended before. In fact, a small group of persistent offenders is responsible for the majority of crime.

The government is working to reduce reoffending by adult offenders and improve community safety and confidence in the justice system.

http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/recidivism-20160218-gmxmog.html

The Report also shows of all jurisdictions:

NSW has the Highest rate of assaults on prisoners (Table 8A.17 p.482), the most overcrowding (Fig8.8, Table 8A.14 p.477) and lowest investment per prisoner (Fig8.9 Table 8A.19 p.487)

This report leaves NSW Corrective Services very exposed. Passing responsibility to private companies for new jails is just an attempt to displace responsibility.

Prison Privatisation

Minister for Corrections David Elliott admits failure-

Gaols are not for sale!

The concerning issue of the privatisation of prisons in Australia in New Zealand is at an all time high. The New South Wales Government in Australia is allowing a private operator to bid to run a gaol in Sydney’s North West- The John Morony Correctional Centre. The SMH released an article on March 21 2016 reporting the significant pressure about to be placed on public prisons in that they must meet their performance aims or risk being run by the private sector. In response, the Public Service Association understand the privatisation of prisons as “another short sighted cash grab” through the obvious lack of liability and pellucidity.

The current regulation of Mt Eden’s Prison in Auckland New Zealand by Serco is being investigated for their incompetent efforts of management of the prison as the profit they have accumulated have been put elsewhere than in the public service as assured. This is just one example of the failure of privatisation of prisons.  The Article states; “We are demanding a full, independent investigation into Serco’s involvement in Mt Eden Prison. One with the integrity and scope that the New Zealand public deserves. But that’s not all. We are also demanding a moratorium on the consideration of Serco for any further public sector contracts. Because we can’t afford to let them fail again in Children’s Services, Mental Health or State Housing.” – Say no to Serco in Aotearoa, Action Station.

Serco have also failed to stop fight clubs, drinking and drug use….

The great concern leans on the difference between the private sectors motivations and the public sectors motivations. The private sector is driven by the pursuit of profit whereas the democratic system of government accentuates a responsibility for the wider community. In the context of prisons, the profit motivation postures severe questions causing great apprehensions between profits and the obligation of corrections to effectively rehabilitate and support a prisoner’s re-entry to society, aiming for reduced rates of recidivism.

If the state is going to continue to hand over public correctional center’s to private sectors then vigilant and all-inclusive contracts need to be drafted that explicitly outline firm terms in relation to prison operations, performance targets and management. In addition, these private sectors should be examined by Independent structures separate to the correctional service within a jurisdiction to investigate, advise, and provide unequivocal analysis over the standards of privatized correctional services and its functioning practices.

Prison privatisation is the most momentous elaboration in penal policy in the second half of the 20th century. Evidently, if it is not correctly controlled and made thoroughly accountable for its operations and outcomes, privatisation could have relapsing effects.

The task is to certify that privatisation is controlled for the benefit of imprisonment benchmarks as a whole, giving Governments a responsibility to regulate procedures so that the private and public prisons in Australia are represent equity, moral standards and a decency in their operations.

Some current news:

          http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-20/nsw-jails-private-prison-operators-ohn-morony-windsor/7261300

          http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/03/20/jail-privatisation-plan-nsw

          http://www.theherald.com.au/story/3802223/nsw-prisons-risk-private-sector-takeover/

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Computers In Cells Project Crowdfunding

The campaign for the computers in cells project has officially been launched. All Members of Parliament, Judges and Magistrates have been sent letters requesting their support for the computers in cells campaign. For more details about the campaign, click here. 

We need your help to ensure that this campaign lifts and gains momentum. Every donation will assist in giving people inside access to life-changing counselling, legal and educational services through computers in cells. Finally it is starting to move.

The proceeds raised will fund the campaign coordination, as well as aiding in the research and implementation of the computers in cells project.  We ask that you help us provide detainees whether in prison, locked hospitals or juvenile justice centres with much needed access to computers, by donating to our GoFundMe page. We aim to raise $230,000 to ensure this task runs to completion. 

 

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Online Legal Services

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LATEST NEWS

Victory: Computers for Legal Access in Liristis v State of New South Wales
27/04/2017 Media 
Release: Computer Restrictions Justify Bail  

Overview
Everyone is entitled to justice, and to fair treatment before the law. This especially includes people in prison who are totally dependent on state control and the most vulnerable, subject to the harshest punishment available. However prisoners are often unable to exercise those legal rights, isolated from support, in cells without resources, but with time and incentive to defend themselves.

People in prisons must have the ability to access resources that assist preparing their defence, and exercising their right to a fair trial. This is why it is essential for people in prisons to have access to computers, as a tool to access evidence, a source of legal knowledge and the ability to present information to help themselves. That right is supported by many cases. The courts can adjourn and release to bail.

People in prison are often not able to access face-to-face legal advice and representation as they require. Barriers include time restraints, restricted access to resources due to classification or physical segregation, and lack of knowledge on the legal system. In some cases, people in prison may choose not to consult with legal professionals due to lack of trust, unreliability and difficulty in communication.

Online legal services for people in prison would help combat some of these barriers. But even standalone computers with access to CDs and USBs are essential. In some states and for some people they are available, but not yet generally accepted as a legal right.


27042017 Supreme Court IMGMr. Tony Liristis’ case highlights the issues surrounding access to justice when someone is held in the NSW prison system. In particular, it demonstrates the breakdown of a fundamental principle within the rule of law: the right to a fair trial with sufficient resources to defend oneself.

Tony Liristis, 53, who has been defending himself, has been denied necessary access to a computer to examine police documents, research the law and present his defence.  Mr. Liristis’ inability to prepare important case documents, due to this lack of computer access, has led to his court date being vacated twice, lengthening his stay in prison. In addition, this has had a detrimental impact on his health, resulting in him being diagnosed with PTSD.

Legal precedent establishes that access to a fair trial is a common law right. However, without proper access to computers and the law, prisoners cannot be involved their case, regularly correspond with legal representatives or advisors, review the evidence being held against them and prepare written submissions to the court. If prisons restrict the prisoner’s right to legal resources, they are essentially depriving them of their right to participate in their own trial.

On the 3rd of January 2017, Liristis wrote to Justice Action requesting our assistance in his plight to access a computer. Justice Action has written to the Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW two times, citing relevant legislation and legal principles to support Liristis’ right to access a computer (See Letter 1 and Letter 2). Justice Action compiled a thorough and persuasive paper regarding prisoners’ right to access legal resources. This pertained to a wide-faring judicial consideration of principles affirming the rule of law through civil access to  justice, procedural fairness, the right to an adjournment and the right to be released on bail. The Commissioner’s response to Liristis’ request for an adequate computer and Internet access stated “CSNSW does not permit inmate access to the Internet.” The Commissioner said that he was satisfied that the computer given to Liristis was adequate for his needs.

Liristis has been given access to a computer for approximately two hours per day, although this computer does not work properly, and cannot open the necessary files for Mr Liristis to view all of his evidence, as the computer is almost 20 years old. He is only able to access his material via the Legal Portal system. Prison officers conduct the transfer of material, which compromises its security. Liristis has previously been forced to open his legal documents for perusal and inspection by officers, in clear contradiction of the Department’s Operations and Procedures Manual, which explicitly states that such material is legally privileged and not to be accessed by prison officers. On the 28th of March 2017, Justice Action responded to the Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW stating that Mr Liristis has been denied the ability to send emails to the court, and to sign out a USB stick, both of which greatly deprive him of his ability to exercise his right to legal defence. The Director of Corrections Executive Services and Complaints Management responded to Justice Action on the 7th of April 2017 and has refused to assist and address our concerns.

Liristis had his Bail Application on 6 April 2017 however it has been postponed to 27 April 2017. Justice Wilson commented that the reason for the Bail Application being postponed is because the prosecution was not ready. Liristis had still not been given access to police documents and expressed fustration at the prosecution in this regard. 

Ultimately, Liristis desperately requires access to a working computer and the law in order to properly prepare for court hearings and defend himself against these charges.

 

 

University Textbook Access-Jeffrey McKane

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.

Justice Action has been attempting to support Mr McKane’s educational endeavours by accessing online lecture materials on his behalf and sending him other vital learning materials, such as textbooks. The Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW gave express written permission for Justice Action to send textbooks to Mr McKane in a letter of 10 August 2016, advising that “all mail must be sent through the normal mail processes for checking”.  However, despite following the Commissioner’s directions, the textbooks sent by Justice Action to Goulburn Correctional Centre were rejected by prison mail officers on two separate occasions.

After Justice Action directly contacted the Commissioner, reminding him of his earlier assurance, it was arranged that Justice Action would send textbooks and other materials to Jeffrey McKane by addressing packages to the General Manager of the prison.  Justice Action has now been able to successfully provide Mr McKane with the textbooks that will allow him to meaningfully continue his studies in prison.

Justice Action took on Mr McKane’s case to protect his universal right of access to education. For individuals within the criminal justice system, this right is significant as it may facilitate further rehabilitation, ensure greater productivity during incarceration and provide a solid foundation for employment and self-development opportunities upon post-release.

This case provides a promising precedent for access to education in NSW prisons. We wish Jeffrey the best of luck with his future studies.

Prisoner Education Success Despite Ban

A huge achievement for a prisoner pursuing his right to education. Jeffrey McKane is a prisoner who, with the help of Justice Action, overcame numerous barriers – most of all being blocked by Corrective Services NSW – to complete his education. Jeffrey has just completed LAW00051: Legal Research and Writing at Southern Cross University, achieving the high result of a credit grade. The achievement is even more remarkable given that the NSW government this year has sacked almost 90% of teachers in prisons, and he did it with no support.

Jeffrey faced many barriers on his path to education. After Corrective Services NSW refused Jeffrey access to education in early 2016, JA intervened on the principle of the right to education. JA enrolled him to the university, supplied him with downloaded lecture notes and textbooks, and corresponded with him and academic staff. His success is a huge win for prisoners seeking to further their education.

With Education Officers in Goulburn Jail ending their jobs on Friday, 9th December 2016, the struggle will continue. Jeffrey will need to print and send his assignments to the University, and access audio CDs to listen to lectures. JA will continue to support Jeffrey in his public fight for an education. We will ask CSNSW to ensure Jeffrey’s access isn’t blocked.

The government has moved towards privatising prisoner education by sacking 138 out of 158 teachers and putting up for tender privately contracted trainers. The Minister for Corrections, David Elliott, claims that the new system will enable more prisoners to have the opportunity to access numeracy and literacy classes with the aim of reducing recidivism but has supplied no details regarding how this transition will occur and there is no evidence to support the claim that this system will be better off losing 138 qualified teachers trained in prison education.

Benefits of Education

  1.       Physical and Mental Health and Wellbeing 
  2.       Reducing Substance Abuse
  3.       Reducing Recidivism
  4.       Employment and Rehabilitation
  5.       Personal Development and Self-expression

Firstly, we believe that education will improve the wellbeing of the prisoner during their time incarcerated. Education carries enormous potential in simply providing a positive outlet for prisoners’ time. This is particularly important when we consider the long, monotonous hours prisoners are subject to while incarcerated, potentially reducing the use of illicit substances, amongst other self-destructive behaviours, to ‘pass the time.’ The case of Tracy Brannigan’s death in custody is one example of where education, had it been available, may have altered the unfortunate outcome. Justice Action firmly believes that mere access to education and a computer would have allowed her to use her time in prison effectively, which had often been spent locked down in her cell for hours on end. To ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again, we have proposed an action plan that should be considered by all stakeholders.

Not only will education in prison improve the wellbeing of offenders during their time incarcerated, but it will also help the offender shape their own identity. In doing so, this will allow them to deviate from their old lifestyle and become a functional member of society. As a result, an array of opportunities in areas of employment, ranging from the trades to the humanities, will open up for them to pursue once released. The US has shown this to be the case, as prisoners who participated in correctional educational programs were 43 percent less likely to reoffend.

"All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality” (Article 6 of the United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners).  It is often misconceived that education only refers to intellectual and academic progression.  However as insulated through the aforementioned principle, education in fact includes infinite and invaluable ways of enriching individuals spiritually, culturally, socially, economically and personally. It should involve access to a variety of structured programs and unstructured learning hubs from which an individual can choose.  The availability of choice provides individuals with the freedom of self-directed learning so that they can pursue personal interest for their own betterment and enrichment.  It is through education that prisoners and forensic patients can increase the likelihood of successful and relatively easy reintegration into society upon their release as the process of learning provides individuals with more avenues for employment and thus financial independence.  

Education Rights

 

Long Bay Rally

LATEST NEWS
Prisoner Public Education Attacked
Denying Education to the Willing : The Jeffrey McKane Story
Computers in Cells Roundtable Discussion
Prison Education Public Forum Footage
Prison Education Public Forum Summary Paper

What is education?  Put simply, education is power.  
It is the power of opportunity and self-determination. 

See our Education Position Paper.

The access and quality of education services to those within the prison and mental health care systems continues to be an area of great debate and discussion. It is inevitable that many in society view individuals within the prison and mental health care systems as unworthy or undeserving of such a “privilege”. However, education is a basic human right (Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) to which all deserve access irrespective of social or economic status, or personal circumstance. Australia formally acknowledged its recognition of and commitment to this right (Article 13 of the ICESCR) through its involvement in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The denial of education should not be used as a punitive measure by corrective or mental health care services.

Education is a multifaceted concept that targets and promotes opportunity, growth, wellbeing and awareness. One of JA’s aims is to educate prisoners and forensic patients, figures of authority and the community as to the education rights and benefits of those within the prison and mental health care systems. Through this, JA also seeks to increase the advocacy for and acknowledgement of these rights.

Structured Education

Structured education has a particular role to play in assisting prisoners, and forensic patients, with reintegration into society, and in helping break the cycle of recidivism. Education provides a pillar of support that allows an individual to learn financial and social independence. In doing so, ex-prisoners are able to turn away from old lifestyles and cycles of crime, assisting them in becoming functional members of society. Education programs such as TAFE and AEVTI courses provide for an array of job opportunities – ranging from the trades to the humanities – providing a greater chance that freed prisoners will find employment in the future. The benefit of this has been demonstrated in numerous studies; in the US, one study found that prisoners who participated in correctional educational programs were 43% less likely to reoffend. The cost of prisoner education is far less than the cost of re-incarceration and community costs resulting from recidivism.

Unstructured & Self-Directed Education

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. 


For the good of our community, we need a computer in every prison cell.  Computers are a tool to target and decrease recidivism rates through education, awareness and self-betterment.  With the majority of prisoners spending up to 18 hours each day in their cells, providing prisoners with educational tools and resources in their cells would take advantage of this otherwise wasted time to reduce prison disruption and prisoner deviancy, and to increase deterrence and the likelihood of prisoners becoming productive members of society when they return outside. 

By simply providing incarcerated individuals with a computer of their own, recidivism rates could be drastically reduced.  While there are specific security issues that would have to be considered, technological advancements are rapidly ensuring that such concerns would be easily addressed.  Although providing prisoners with computers in their cells has been successful in the ACT, Victoria and Norway, computers are currently not provided in individual cells in NSW and most prisons around the world. 

Computers in Cells Proposal

Offering a myriad of personal stories and quotes from recent ex-prisoners, the ‘Computers in Cells’ proposal clearly depicts the severely restricted computer access currently being provided in NSW prisons.  In on instance, a prisoner was only able to gain access to a computer five times in one year, consequently forcing them to withdraw from the university and TAFE courses they were undertaking at the time.  The provision of computers would come at a very small cost to the Department of Corrective Services NSW, with many organisations having already expressed interest in contributing to and funding such a project.  Justice Action proposes that computers be equipped with email capabilities and educational resources, whilst simultaneously being centrally managed and monitored, and protected from unauthorised modifications. 


Benefits of Education

  1.       Physical and Mental Health and Wellbeing 
  2.       Reducing Substance Abuse
  3.       Reducing Recidivism
  4.       Employment and Rehabilitation
  5.       Personal Development and Self-expression

Firstly, we believe that education will improve the wellbeing of the prisoner during their time incarcerated. Education carries enormous potential in simply providing a positive outlet for prisoners’ time. This is particularly important when we consider the long, monotonous hours prisoners are subject to while incarcerated, potentially reducing the use of illicit substances, amongst other self-destructive behaviours, to ‘pass the time.’ The case of Tracy Brannigan’s death in custody is one example of where education, had it been available, may have altered the unfortunate outcome. Justice Action firmly believes that mere access to education and a computer would have allowed her to use her time in prison effectively, which had often been spent locked down in her cell for hours on end. To ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again, we have proposed an action plan that should be considered by all stakeholders.

Not only will education in prison improve the wellbeing of offenders during their time incarcerated, but it will also help the offender shape their own identity. In doing so, this will allow them to deviate from their old lifestyle and become a functional member of society. As a result, an array of opportunities in areas of employment, ranging from the trades to the humanities, will open up for them to pursue once released. The US has shown this to be the case, as prisoners who participated in correctional educational programs were 43 percent less likely to reoffend.

"All prisoners shall have the right to take part in cultural activities and education aimed at the full development of the human personality” (Article 6 of the United Nations Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners).  It is often misconceived that education only refers to intellectual and academic progression.  However as insulated through the aforementioned principle, education in fact includes infinite and invaluable ways of enriching individuals spiritually, culturally, socially, economically and personally. It should involve access to a variety of structured programs and unstructured learning hubs from which an individual can choose.  The availability of choice provides individuals with the freedom of self-directed learning so that they can pursue personal interest for their own betterment and enrichment.  It is through education that prisoners and forensic patients can increase the likelihood of successful and relatively easy reintegration into society upon their release as the process of learning provides individuals with more avenues for employment and thus financial independence.  


Costs (current and future) vs. earnings

     Education is a positive direction of energy and reduces the incidence of destructive behaviour. We urge the government to provide an adequate allocation of resources to prisons and mental health care facilities, in areas including the provision of teachers, computers and other educational materials. This will better equip prisoners and forensic patients seeking to develop themselves and make positive lifestyle changes, providing them with a much-needed lifeline. Such changes will benefit not only the individual, but also society as a whole – the benefits of individual enrichment and community costs of recidivism far outweigh the short-term cost of increasing education access in correctional and mental health facilities.

-   Recognition: Ensure the recognition of qualifications gained in prison to aid individuals when seeking employment upon release

-    Prospect of further education: Ability to pursue further or higher education upon release

-   Employment: Programs funded/implemented by employers à guarantee future employment if successfully completed

While in 2013-2014, NSW prisons facilitated the delivery of 18,335 hours of TAFE courses for prisoners, by 2015 we have seen this number reduced by 20%, with only 7,000 hours contracted for the first semester of 2015. Unfortunately, cost is a major barrier to prisoners accessing this shrinking supply of practical education. For someone receiving unemployment benefits the cost of a Certificate 1-4 TAFE course is $240, whereas prisoners, who are not in receipt of government benefits, must pay $1730 for the same course. 

Here

Social Impact Bonds Critique 2016

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The recent announcement by the NSW Government that the National Australia Bank (NAB) and the Australian Community Support Organisation (ACSO) have signed up as investors to their recent ‘social impact investment’ scheme must be met with further scrutiny.

Justice Action is concerned that attempts by the NSW government to distance itself from the direct implementation of criminal justice programs reduces their accountability as elected officials in providing effective services for its citizens. Seen in conjunction with recent efforts to privatise the prison system in its entirety, there is legitimate cause for further examination.

Justice Actions is also concerned at the inclusion of ACSO, a Melbourne based organisation. Motivated by a return on investment may potentially lead to the watering down of benchmarks regarding recidivism rates and the successful re-integration of prisoners. We believe that their advocacy role could be compromised as an investor in this scheme. The decision by the NSW Government not to publicly reveal the exact investment amounts and the potential returns for investors’ further obscures the relationships at the heart of this scheme.

As a criminal justice advocacy organisation, Justice Action is primarily concerned with ensuring that the rights and needs of those in Australian prisons and locked hospitals are met. Justice Action is not against attempts to innovate and provide better quality of services to these people. However, the absence of a truly independent authority assessing the success of these programs does not bode well for transparency and accountability within government programs.

Justice Action would like to see greater transparency within the program. The relationship between investors and the Government must be more clearly defined in the public sphere. The relevant expectations and obligations of both groups must also be clearly outlined. Importantly, considering the alarming statistics surrounding the criminal justice system in NSW, accountability for failure, and success, must be made clearer.

Justice Action is pleased that the NSW Government is taking prison reform seriously. However, as with any essential government service, due caution must be taken to ensure that the relevant parties are not adversely affected.

See the Sydney Morning Herald Article here 

 

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Justice Action
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4 Goulburn Street
Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

T 02 9283 0123
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E ja@justiceaction.org.au
© 2017 Breakout Media Communications

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