Right to Vote

Although detained, people in prisons and locked hospitals are still citizens who are affected by government policy and do have the right to elect those who govern them. Prisoners and mental health consumers have family and friends on the outside and when they complete their sentence, they will join the world outside and be affected by government policy. They should have a right to determine what sort of health, housing, social security and jobs are available outside of prisons. Whilst inside they are entitled to receive and send information as their democratic right of expression. Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, where Articles 2 and 25 provide that every citizen has the right to vote. Many countries throughout the world give prisoners full voting rights or exempt only those charged with treason. 

Prisoners' Right to Vote (article)

Enrolment to Vote

Latest News

2019 Report on the Enrolment to Vote

Media Release - Enrolment to Vote (2019)


Many people in prisons and hospitals have the right to vote but do not get enrolled. In 2004 we began a campaign to ensure it happened. In 2015, we reignited the campaign. A proposal was sent to all the states, territories and New Zealand voicing our concern over their inaction in the enrolment to vote campaign. Electoral Commissions are very active removing people from the roll when their sentence is over three years. Special legislation and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) are created to require prison authorities to notify electoral authorities of the entry of every prisoner whatever their sentence or if on remand. That same information could easily be used to initiate enrolment if the person wasn't on the roll. The proposal outlined ways they could rectify these problems by offering change-of-address forms to give prisoners a postal vote, enrolling them if they are not currently on the electoral roll, and reinstating them to the electoral roll upon release. People in locked hospitals needed their address to be changed, or registered if not on the roll. 


Justice Action has completed three reports on the status quo surrounding the enrolment to vote in prisons and hospitals around Australia.

Media release May 25, 2016 

The 2019 Report on the Enrolment to Vote campaign can be viewed here

The 2016 Report on the Enrolment to Vote campaign can be viewed here 

The 2013 Report on the Enrolment to Vote campaign can be viewed here


Death in Custody is the ultimate failure in the duty of care that is incumbent upon police and corrective services.  In the 1980s some 100 Indigenous lives were lost in similar circumstances.  In the 1990s, a further 147 perished in prisons and detention centres around the country.

Justice Action does not per se maintain a facilitator with specific responsibilities for Deaths in Custody-related issues. Rather, we recognise all deaths in custody, under any circumstance, as the ultimate failure in the duty of care that is incumbent upon police and corrective services to fulfill. The immediacy of response required when a death in custody occurs is a JA group responsibility.

We work in close alliance particularly with the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee of New South Wales. Despite the clear mandate of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the investment of hundreds of millions of government dollars, the deaths continue uninterrupted.

The sharp increase in the numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody indicates that the recommendations of the Royal Commission are not being properly implemented and continues to reflect the grossly disproportionate representation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system.

Justice Action is currently pursuing numerous deaths in custody cases.

Our Pick Report


Justice Action is proud of its work with mental health. The Our Pick Report is a report written by Justice Action concerning the state of mental health in Australia.


Justice Action decided to focus on the mental health area after it had become apparent that a new strategy was required to defend community interest and prisoners' rights against the law and the added effects of tension, boredom, powerlessness and isolation occuring in imprisonment. Many prisoners become forensic patients or remain in prison under medication: the rates of major mental illness in prisons have been found to be three times higher tha that of the general population. This report confront the abuse of 'care' in mental health and prisons. If you want to read more download the Our Pick Report.

Age of Responsibility

Youth and Juvenile Justice

"Children who came directly under the power of the state for their own protection (state wards)... are now the largest per capita group in our juvenile jails (and hence, our adult jails)."

Classification of Children Offenders
One of the most difficult areas of criminal justice policy lies in providing appropriate legal mechanisms to reflect the transition from the age of innocence through to maturity and full responsibility under the criminal law.

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Security Standards for Computers in Cells

Establishing Security Standards for Computers in Cells



It is essential that some formal principles about computer access for people in detention are immediately established, as this is basic to any serious attempt to nationally implement a computers in cells (CIC) program. The aim is to fully defend the CIC system against any abuses that could place the community, prisons or prison staff at risk. The security standards should become the base upon which other jurisdictions can securely form their computer systems.

It is proposed that these standards be universally accepted and adjusted as necessary as the agreed ‘gold standard’ of good prison management for computer access.

Through these security standards we intend to pre-emptively address any security concerns relating to the implementation of computers in prisoners’ cells.

The computers in cells system should be simple and safe, but also involve prisoners themselves in taking a measure of individual responsibility, just as everyone does within the general community. It is essential that authorities recognise the principle of individual responsibility as opposed to collective responsibility, and ensure that only those inmates who abuse the system should be punished. In the event that abuses of the computers in cells system does occur, transgressors must be dealt with individually.


Any new proposal within the prison system is a disturbance of the status quo. There will be a high level of emotional response from administrators and staff who are accustomed to operating in a tightly controlled and restricted environment and always resent any benefits to prisoners. Those who have little knowledge of IT and low education levels will be suspicious and distrustful of the computers in cells system. As a consequence, some administrators and staff have in the past deliberately sabotaged new systems, therefore it is necessary that we provide stated standards by which it can be judged to ensure that computers in cells are protected.

Obviously there will be different areas of risk concerned with stand-alone systems and those with internet access, all of which need to and will be addressed by the current supplier of prisoner computer services.


In relation to instances of abuse of the system, there are specific areas of concern to be addressed in order to maintain the integrity of the system. Those concerns include:

  • Escape
  • Crime including sex offences
  • Contacting victims
  • Access to pornography

Case Histories of Breaches

(‘Clearing House’ – Opportunity to lodge experiences)

There have been examples of past cases whereby security breaches have occurred, however the current technology can address all of these issues.

Case History 1

In this instance it was reported that child pornography had been smuggled into Ararat prison, Victoria (Australia) through USB storage devices and memory cards.


Case History 2

In another situation at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Australian Capital Territory (Australia) a prisoner used internet access to send a garbled message via email to The Canberra Times.


Case History 3

At Barwon prison, Victoria (Australia) an inmate was found with a disc containing dozens of offensive pornographic images.


Case History 4

Thirty Facebook pages across the United Kingdom were taken down after it was discovered that prisoners were using their profiles to taunt their victims.


Solutions to Security Breaches

Logging and Monitoring
Extensive logging of user sessions is recorded in the computer supplier’s server system logs for custodial staff to audit later if required. Custodial staff can remotely monitor or control prisoner desktops, for remote support or for clandestine monitoring.


Print Accounting and Identification
All printing is logged with the computer suppliers system so that the associated costs can be charged to the prisoners. All documents are marked with clear identification of the prisoner who printed them.

Enforced Curfew

The computer supplier ensures desktop computers can be automatically shutdown at a nominated 'lights-out' time. Prisoners are unable to use the computers until the curfew is automatically lifted.

Unauthorised Memory Devices

Technologies such as high density USB storage devices, DVDs and 3G modems have been known to be smuggled into or out of prisons as a means of communication or for access to non-approved media. To address this, the computer supplier has explicitly disabled the use of any modem or USB storage device and has blocked access to optical media containing video or data content unless it has been analysed and approved by staff. Any attempt to access unapproved media will alert custodial staff.

Access to DVD or CD media may also be restricted to specific users or desktops. Although prisoners may try to smuggle such devices in and out the facility, they will not be able to access the content or upload content to the device.

Unauthorised Email Messages

Through the computer supplier’s system, prisoners are provided with access to a secure email so that they can contact a restricted and monitored amount of people (such as their solicitor and family members). Emails are filtered through a security system in order to monitor inappropriate information.


Unauthorised Website Access

The computer supplier blocks all access to any unapproved websites, of course including Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and any other social networking sites that could give prisoners access to victims.


Current technology and security measures allow for the safe use of computers by prisoners. With recidivism rates over 40% it is important to implement CIC programs within Australian prisons. See the ‘Computers in Cells Proposal’ for in-depth analysis about how CIC will reduce recidivism creating a safer community.

Computers In Cells Proposal

The ‘Computers in Cells’ proposal presents the need for a computer to be placed in every cell. This will make our communities safer and more inclusive.

Not only do computers promote self-improvement by encouraging education and vocational training, they also provide an effective tool to target recidivism. For individuals experiencing the prison system from the inside, a computer offers a means of communicating with family, dealing with boredom in a productive, safe manner and enabling access to crucial legal resources.

With the majority of prisoners spending around 18 hours a day in their cells, this issue needs to be addressed immediately so that their time can be used for personal development rather than wasted watching the ever present TV. The technology is almost identical but one is active rather than passive.

Security concerns are easily dealt with by filters such as the PrisonPC software used in the new A.C.T. prison. It blocks access to USB and optical media drives or any websites like Facebook unless the sites and specific pages have been approved by the prison. The benefits are shown by prisoners being released and not reoffending. The recidivist level of 20% in Norway where they have computers in their cells compares to over 40% in Australia.

For the latest download and full article including security gold standards link here.

Long Bay Patients Lockdown

The Victory for the Long Bay mental patients time out of cells isn't over! Campaign report. It went to Parliament for an Urgency Debate on 12/11/08, and we had the majority. But Minister Hatzistergos' promises were not kept. Media release 2nd Dec Patient statement

Over recent weeks, concerns were expressed that there would be delays in the transfer of the forensic patients to the new forensic hospital under the Health Department, as had been agreed to by Cabinet following community concern.  The full report of the campaign.

The patients had been assured that when they were transferred, their out of cell hours would be returned.

As a result of these concerns, on 12 November 2008, the Greens and the Liberals joined together to support Sylvia Hale's Notice of Motion in the Upper House, that the practice of early lock downs of these patients be stopped immediately.

Before the motion could be debated, an urgency motion had to be passed.  To do that, the support of the cross benchers consisting of the two Christian Democrats and the two Shooters Party representatives had to be obtained.  Justice Action and the NSW Nurses Association provided written and oral presentations to the cross benchers.  The presentations were successful and to the obvious chagrin of the government, all the parties in the Upper House joined together to ensure the motion was debated. 

During the course of the debate, Minister Hatzistergos gave an assurance that by 28 November all forensic patients would be transferred to the new forensic hospital.  His words were unequivocal:

‘Everyone knows that the current situation at Long Bay prison hospital is temporary. I say temporary because it is envisaged that on 28 November this year the new forensic hospital will commence to operate. When that occurs some of those persons detained in the Long Bay prison hospital who are forensic patients will move into the new forensic hospital under a regime that will be managed entirely by Justice Health. However, those inmates who remain in the prison hospital will not be forensic inmates…’  Transcripts: Urgency motion Minister's reply

We believe that those words profoundly influenced the course of the debate to the extent that some of the cross benchers didn't support the actual motion of condemnation.  No doubt the cross benchers were comforted by the assurance from the Minister that by 28 November, the problem would be solved.

We ourselves have great doubt that the transfer of these patients will take place by that date.  If it does not, we will be seeking reasons why the Minister has misled Parliament on this critically important issue and backing action to take him to task over it. 

During the debate the Minister abused and threatened participants from The Greens, Liberals and Christian Democrats and put down HREOC. Justice Action asked the Minister the following day to justify his comments about Justice Action. We are proud of our record of careful research, presenting the truth and standing by our words. We had to follow up the fax and email to get acknowledgement and are still awaiting the Minister's statement or apology.


HRMU segregation analysis

Close the HRMU!

Justice Action proposes a community inspection of the unit. This analysis shows why its use should be seen as torture and better ways of dealing with those prisoners in it. supermax info leaflet 204kb

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Miscarriages Of Justice 2

Justice Action has obtained the permission of the Executive Officer of the Wood Royal Commission to distribute the public files of the Wood Royal Commission to NSW prison libraries. Permission has subsequently been granted by the legal department of the Department of Corrective Services and the Commissioner.

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Prisoner Rights to Vote

Voting Rights for Prisoners
Currently Australian prisoners serving sentences of less than only three years can vote in federal elections. In Aug 2004 Federal Parliament restricted the right to vote to those serving sentences of three years or less.

Now the coalition wants all prisoners barred from voting in federal elections with the introduction late last year of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Electoral Integrity and Other Measures) Bill.

There is no evidence that disenfranchising prisoners deters crime or assists in rehabilitation. It is more likely to increase alienation and disengagement from mainstream society and any sense of civic responsibility. This would disenfranchise 25,353 voters of which more than half are expected to serve sentences of less than two years; ie who are likely to be released within a political term. It is a double disenfranchisement for the 5,656 Indigenous people in jail who lost their ATSIC vote last year.
Click here to download an information flyer.
(Prisoners Vote flyer - 182k. PDF format)

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