Penal Abolition


Just Us History & Media

  • Just Us 2015 NSW Election Edition Released!
  • JA's interview with Eric McGraw, founder and editor of Just Us' British counterpart Inside Time (July 2012)
  • New Matilda: 'Prisoners Voted in the Dark' article on Just Us (31 March 2011)
  • Media Release: Voters in Prisons and Hospitals Refused Information (21 March 2011)
  • Sydney Morning Herald: 'Battle Over Prison Paper Leaves Little Time to Vote' article on Just Us (16 November 2007)
  • Prisoner Newspaper Ban: Haque Supreme Court Challenge (2007) 
  • Prisoner Newspaper Ban: Supreme Court Challenge (2007)
  • JUST US: History and Challenges

    The first roadblock to a nationally distributed election-based newspaper for prisoners was encountered in 2004. NSW Corrective Services blocked the distribution of the Australian Prisoners’ Election Newspaper into NSW facilities. Justice Action Coordinator Stacy Scheff brought the case to the NSW Supreme Court, with Australia’s leading constitutional lawyer, George Williams AO, arguing before Justice Smart for the right of prisoners to receive voting information.

    Legal observers believed NSW Corrective Services would lose. All Attorney Generals around Australia were notified of the urgent case, however Corrective Services NSW brought forward the polling in each prison and forced prisoners to vote before the newspaper could be distributed. With no practical effect as prisoners had voted, the case proceeded no further. 

    JUST US Vol. 3 was the subject of further Supreme Court action in 2007 when NSW Prisons Commissioner, Mr Woodham, banned the federal election special from being disseminated in NSW prisons. Tony Haque for Justice Action challenged the decision. Justice Elizabeth Fullerton decided that nothing published in JUST US would prejudice the good order of prisons. Justice Fullerton went on to say, "While I have real doubts as to whether [Commissioner Woodham] has in fact considered the 'Federal Election Special' on its merits in accordance with his stated policy…I am unable to form the certain view that he did not."The basis she gave for forming this view was that the Commissioner gave no reasons for his decision to ban. Importantly she put the Commissioner on notice that although Mr Haque could not establish he had acted unreasonably, she warned;

    "The fact that I am not prepared to draw an inference adverse to the [Commissioner] is not intended to encourage him to refrain from giving reasons in the future were Justice Action to seek permission for another edition of 'JUST US' to be distributed. To the contrary."

    In 2011, Justice Action was successful in the NSW Supreme Court in obtaining the right to distribute JUST US to locked hospitals as well as prisons. The Health Department had said:

    “The document contains language and content that is political in nature and as such would not be deemed suitable for distribution within any NSW health facilities.  Any distribution of such material by Justice Health could be viewed as being endorsed by Justice Health.”

    David Bennett AC QC former Commonwealth Solicitor General led our team and the court ordered costs of $5000 in favour of Justice Action.

    In 2014, The Australian Human Rights Law Centre prepared a challenge in the Supreme Court of Victoria to the initial refusal by Victorian Prisons for JUST US Vol. 5 entry. It was subsequently allowed to enter. 

Just Us: The Voice of People in Prisons and Hospitals

Just Us is a newspaper for people in the prison and mental health systems in Australia and New Zealand to help them make informed decisions in state and federal elections. The seventh edition of Just Us has been launched and is currently being circulated across Australia. Just Us is the only newspaper in Australia that is distributed to prisons and locked hospitals, as well as to judges, magistrates and Members of Parliament in every jurisdiction in Australia. The history is one of successful struggle to retain political and community rights for the most excluded.

Many prisoners are enrolled and eligible to vote. They should have the right to fully participate in the electoral process and be informed about parties, policy and how election results will affect them. Just Us informs prisoners and patients of their rights and eligibility to vote, while also providing statements on policy positions from all political parties and many independents. The statements specifically target people in prison in order to enhance their political awareness and empower them to make a difference to their lives.

At the recent launch for the 2016 Edition, Aboriginal ex-prisoner John Harris explained that ‘Receiving the Just Us newspapers reminds prisoners that whilst we have lost our liberty doing our time - we have not lost our rights to our humanity and dignity’. Just Us published contributions from Electoral Commissions across Australia and New Zealand, as well as legal service providers and NGOs such as Red Cross, reminding voters of their right to vote and participate in the democratic process. 

2016 Edition of Just Us-Federal Election Issue

Past Issues of Just Us

2015 NSW Election Edition                                             2013 Federal Election Edition                                 2011 NSW Election Edition

was the predecessor of Just Us, with with 47 editions distributed nationally to libraries and individuals in prisons and locked hospitals. The Framed archive is available upon request.

Beyond Bars - Victims of Crime Fact Sheet

Victims & Offenders in the Criminal Justice System

In public debates about law and order, it is often argued that the justice system is soft on criminals and unfair to victims of crime.  The rights of victims are frequently depicted in the public arena as being in direct opposition to the rights of offenders.  

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Just Us Distribution Report

25,000 copies of JUST US (volume 7) have been distributed to people in prisons and locked hospitals throughout Australia prior to the Federal Election. All political parties contributed their statements as an expression of the constitutional right to receive and send political information.

Despite the constitutional basis and right for the distribution of the newspaper, South Australia refused its entry in its prisons. We are now considering a Supreme Court challenge.

For locked hospitals in each of the 8 jurisdictions, it was more difficult to get approval for distribution to happen due to the uncertainty of whose responsibility it is to give respect to patient’s political rights. To some areas it was an administrative matter, others tried to call it clinical. Many states tried to escape responsibility, but they finally accepted it.

Every Member of Parliament and Supreme Court judge in all eight jurisdictions received a copy of the newspaper with an accompanying letter addressing the issues mentioned in the newspaper.

Prisoners have already expressed genuine joy regarding their contribution to JUST US (volume 7).

Just Us 2016 Federal Election Special

Just Us is the only publication distributed to the 44,000 people in prisons and locked hospitals throughout Australia. 

With the fast approaching 2016 Federal Election, this issue voices the people in prisons and hospitals. Just Us gives prisoners who are eligible to vote the right to fully participate in the electoral process and have the information and policies necessary to make informed decisions.

This issue of Just Us, includes statements from political parties including: Australian Greens Party, Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party, Palmer United Party, Socialist Alliance and the Australian Sex Party. Justice Action created iExpress in 2014 to be the world’s first online platform for people in prisons and hospitals. This issue actively explains the uses and further possibilities of iExpress.

The launch of Just Us 2016 Federal Newspaper was held in the atrium of the Trades Hall Building, 4 Goulburn Street, Sydney, on Friday the 10th of June from 5:00pm to 6:00pm. The current political editor at The New Daily, Quentin Dempster, was the Master of the Ceremony for the evening. A panel presented their policies and responded to questions.

View the 2016 Just Us Launch on the Justice Action YouTube Channel Here 

Access the 2016 Just Us Federal Election Edition Here

2016 Just Us Distribution Report Updated

Screen Shot 2016 06 24 at 12.31.52 pm



                                                           Quentin Dempster, Sylvie Ellsmore, Dr. Ross Fitzgerald,                                                                          JA Team Distribution 

                                                           Peter Boyle at Just Us Launch                                            


What is Just Us?

Brett & The Team distributing Just Us at Silverwater Correctional Complex - September 2013

The Australian and NZ detainees newspaper

Just Us is a newspaper written for and by those held involuntarily inside institutions. It goes to one in every two prisoners and mental health detainees in Australia and New Zealand. It also goes by name, to judges from the High Court to magistrates, and to every MP in every Parliament in both countries. Just Us is an entertaining and informative newspaper and also provides information on the rights of people held in prisons and in mental health units. This publication gives a voice to prisoners, patients and other detainees all over New Zealand and Australia as a tool to make a difference to their lives.

Justice Action recently spoke with Eric McGraw, Editor of Inside Time, the UK newspaper for prisoners, about Just Us and his own reflections on the prison system in the UK. See below.

Q & A July 4 with Eric McGraw on YouTube and JUST US inspiration with Eric McGraw    

JUST US editions can be found here
was its predecessor with 47 editions distributed nationally to libraries and individuals in prisons and locked hospitals.
Jail News editions are available on request.

Past Issues of Just Us


The team at Justice Action are currently working on the newest edition of Just Us in anticipation of the 2016 Federal Election.

Issues Released



frmd1.gifRedress Roundabout

Source: Framed, March 2004, Issue #46

If you think something’s wrong, you’ve got a right, even a duty, to complain about it. That’s an elementary principle of any human society worthy of the name. Prisoners don’t lose this right – and this duty – just because they’re prisoners. In fact, given that, as Dostoyevsky said, “the degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”, prisoners have a special duty to complain about prison conditions that are inhumane, squalid or undignified. Or conditions that alienate them from the outside world, or that do not protect them against violence or sexual attacks. So that a society can know what’s happening in its prisons, it needs a system that hears prisoners’ complaints, and examines them properly. So that a society can become more human, it needs a system that can redress prisoners’ grievances and bring about change.

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The Extra Bit

‘The Extra Bit’ Report aims to shed light upon the lack of individual empowerment afforded to mental health consumers. It is crucial that consumers are encouraged to adopt an active role in their own treatment.

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ICOPA XIII Belfast 2010

ICOPA 13 (23-25 June 2010) 
Abolition, Reform and the Politics of Global Incarceration (Queen's University, Belfast)

21-22 June Irish Criminology Conference

23-25 June ICOPA 13

26 June Day Trip for those still around!


The 13th International Conference on Penal Abolition will be held in Belfast at a defining moment regarding the devolution of Policing and Justice to the recently constituted Northern Ireland Assembly. A decade on from the release of political prisoners under the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, Northern Ireland’s prisons are under continuing criticism. We invite international papers, art, film, policy proposals, reports and posters on any aspect of the generic theme from researchers, activists, prisoners and former prisoners on penal abolition at a time dominated by reformist discourses about ‘healthy prisons’ alongside global expansion of incarceration in prisons, special hospitals and other places of detention. Individuals and groups can offer sessions/ panels in diverse formats. Current and former prisoners unable to attend, please contact us to enable presentations by proxy.

The Conference will be held at the University and in the community. We will provide a range of options for people to book directly with local hotels and hostels and endeavour to accommodate former prisoners.

ICOPA 13 will also acknowledge the life and work of Louk Hulsman who died in 2009:

“Abolition of criminal justice is that you abolish that in yourself, in the same way we are doing with racism and in the same way we are doing that with gender differences …You abolish criminal justice in yourself … Abolishing means that you will not anymore talk that language. And if you do not talk that language anymore then you see other things.”


Submission of Abstracts

Deaglan Coyle
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
0044 28 9097 3472

Please circulate this Call for Papers. Please note that the Irish Criminology Conference will be also in Belfast on the two days before ICOPA 13

Professor Phil Scraton PhD

Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Queen's University




UK Article - Alternatives to Punishment Being Ignored

Blair defends ministers' prisons advice

Hélène Mulholland and agencies
Wednesday January 24, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Tony Blair insisted today that a letter sent to judges by senior ministers urging them to find alternative punishments to prison was "simply reminding the courts of existing sentencing policy".

The prime minister was forced on the defensive by David Cameron after the government urged judges and magistrates to jail only the most dangerous and persistent criminals in a bid to ease prison overcrowding.

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