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Prison Issues

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Rapid Build Prison Dormitories

 

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The NSW Government has adopted a new concept in prison architecture to allow an urgent response to an unexpected surge in prisoner numbers. This new form of imprisonment, holding 800 maximum security prisoners in dormitories of 25 together, is being constructed without public discussion about the consequences. The CJC has researched the international experience of prisoners dormitories and is concerned that this sytem raises levels of violence, bullying and fear, with damage to prisoner health and recividism. The uncertainty surrounding the concept of a dormitory styled prison is exhibited by plans to demolish the Wellington complex within 5-7 years.Cubicles in the dormitories will be 3m by 2m with partitions 1.5m high and no door. An increased level of activity will be offered using computers with educational access and potential for email.

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Media Release: Northern Territory Juvenile Justice Exposure

Graphic footage aired on the ABC’s Four Corners Program has exposed the brutal mistreatment of young boys in the Juvenile Justice System between 2010 and 2015. The Four Corners footage showed detainees as young as thirteen being repeatedly stripped naked, thrown against walls, kneed and knocked to the ground. Furthermore, detainees were placed in solitary confinement for excessive periods of time and sprayed with tear gas in confined spaces.

Following the extensive media coverage and public outcry against these revelations, the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Adam Giles removed and replaced the Northern Territory’s Minister for Corrections John Elferink. Furthermore, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered a Royal Commission into Darwin’s Don Dale Detention Centre. Although Justice Action believes the Commission will be a positive presence in highlighting the terrible injustice done to young people, we do not believe that it goes far enough. Justice Action would like to see the Royal Commission extended beyond the Northern Territory. The crisis facing young people in juvenile detention is a national issue for both young people and adults.

The treatment of young boys in Darwin’s Don Dale Detention centre amounts to torture and constitutes a breach of Australia’s international obligations under [OPCAT]. In 2009, Justice Action produced a report to the Australian Human Rights Commission. If these recommendations had been adopted in 2009 these terrible conditions may have been rectified sooner.

Justice Action condemns the atrocities perpetuated towards young people within the criminal justice system. These are places where young people need the most support. Unfortunately, the history of the penal colony is littered with the continuation of such incidents, and will inevitably continue without the crucial intervention of our elected representatives, legal officers, non-government organisations and advocates, and the general public. It is up to society to keep our representatives accountable for such tragic oversights, and force them to intervene rather than ignore these travesties.

As a result of these recent events, Justice Action acknowledges that the following changes should be enacted promptly:

1. Expansion of the Royal Commission to include investigation of all places of detention in all states and territories.
2. Adoption of the recommendations made by Justice Action’s international Consultation regarding the OPCAT treaty.
3. Implementation of an NPM (National Preventative Mechanism) ensuring regular inspection of all places of detention, including juvenile detention centres in Australia.

Media Summary: Northern Territory Juvenile Justice Exposure

Prisoner Education Forum 2016

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Community Justice Coalition (CJC) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) are presenting a public forum on Prisoner Education.

Several key speakers including Shadow Minister Guy Zangari MP, The Greens Spokesperson David Shoebridge MLC, Former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Elizabeth Evatt AC, and President for NSW Teachers Federation Maurie Mulheron.

Tuesday 23 August 2016
Time: 5:30pm to 7:30pm
Venue: Parliament House Sydney, Macquarie Room
Come along! Please email RSVP to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
For more information, and Forum Paper visit CJC or ICJ website

Northern Territory Juvenile Justice Exposure

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Graphic footage aired on the ABC’s Four Corners Program has shed light on the brutal mistreatment of young boys in the juvenile justice system between 2010 and 2015. Detainees as young as thirteen were repeatedly stripped naked, thrown against walls, kneed and knocked to the ground, forcefully restrained, placed in solitary confinement for extended periods and sprayed with tear gas in a confined space. This constitutes to torture and is a blatant violation of Australia’s obligations under OPCAT.

This endemic violence occurs when vulnerable people are kept in secret places where no one is watching. It constitutes a breach of Australia’s international obligations under OPCAT that should be rectified.

At the Human Rights Commission Seminar on the adoption of the OPCAT treaty on 25 November 2009, Justice Action represented the detainees and proposed a number of recommendations on the issue, with which the world-leading expert on torture Silvia Casale agreed. The adoption of the recommendations would have prevented the atrocities that have occurred in Northern Territory.

Following media coverage and public outcry against this incident, the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Adam Giles removed and replaced the Northern Territory’s Minister for Corrections John Elferink. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a Royal Commission into the acts of abuse in Darwin’s Don Dale Detention Centre.

Turnbull’s commission was initially criticised due to its limited scope (to the NT, Don Dale in particular) and the appointment of former Northern Territory Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Martin to head of the inquiry. However, Brian Martin resigned as head of the commission just 4 days after his appointment leading to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner Mick Gooda and Justice Margaret White being appointed as co-commissioners.

MORE INFORMATION:

Media Summary: Northern Territory Juvenile Justice Exposure

Media Release: Northern Territory Juvenile Justice Exposure 

JA Report The benefits of monitoring places of detention – from a prisoner’s perspective

 

Analysis of Committee - Lifers' Report

On the 4th of April 2016, the Standing Committee on Law and Justice (Law and Justice Committee) submitted a Report to Parliament regarding the security classification and management of inmates sentenced to life imprisonment. It responded to an intervention made by David Elliot (Minister for Corrective Services) on the reclassification of lifer Andrew Garforth.

In July 2015, Andrew Garforth was reclassified from maximum (A2) to medium (B) security on the recommendation of the Serious Offenders Review Council (SORC). Another 11 inmates serving a natural life sentence had also been reclassified to either medium or minimum security. Reacting to an outcry from the victims family and the public, the Commissioner of Corrective Services reclassified him and then later all natural lifers from their lower security back to maximum.

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Analysis of Submissions

Analysis of Submissions to the NSW Legislative Council’s Standing Committee on Law and Justice

Inquiry into the Security Classification and Management of Prisoners Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

There have been 26 submissions made to the Inquiry as of 11th November 2015.

Government Body Submissions

- Serious Offenders Review Council
- NSW Ombudsman
- Inspector of Custodial Services
- NSW Department of Justice
- Legal Aid NSW

Government submissions agreed on the need for rehabilitative programs for life prisoners, as part of the human right to development and as a tool for Corrective Services staff to manage the prison population.

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Life Prisoners' Inquiry

NSW Legislative Council's Standing Committee on Law and Justice: Inquiry into the Security Classification and Management of Prisoners Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

This NSW Parliamentary Inquiryis about to consider a proposal for exclusion and punishment more severe than ever before. It will consider reducing prisoners serving total life to the status of “living dead”. They would be denied the opportunity for self development, and would be held under deliberately destructive high security conditions for the rest of their lives. Such changes would effectively legitimise torture and violate the United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development. The proposal violates fundamental moral and legal principles in a civilised society. 

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Comparing zoos and prisons: Worse Than Animals

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This unique analysis compares the treatment of zoo animals and prisoners. The findings reveal that Taronga Zoo's gorillas are given twenty four times more space than people held inside the private Parklea prison. 

This research shows that zoos have stringent safeguards maintaining much higher standards than prisons to ensure that captive animals receive adequate care. 

The overcrowded cells article on the Sydney Morning Herald website can be viewed here.
Media Release: 
Comparing Zoos and Prisons: Worse Than Animals 23 November 2015
The report is available for download here.

In April 2015 the Report of the Inspector of Custodial Services “Full House” exposed the inhumane conditions in NSW prisons due to overcrowding caused by an exploding prison population of 12.5% increase per year.  The Inspector declared: “the state treats inmates in a way that denies them a modicum of dignity and humanity.” 

The publicly exposed lack of enforceable standards was the basis for this unique analysis comparing people locked in prisons and animals in zoos, not previously undertaken elsewhere. 

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