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


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


iexpress banner

iExpress: Now launching prisoners & mental health patients online!

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 and bringing them into the digitial world, 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. Launch video here.

We are bringing them out of the cells and onto the net! iExpress website

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Hall of Shame

The Hall of Shame is a place where those in power are exposed for unethical and abhorrent behaviour. Transgressions are often concealed from the public eye as those in power abuse their position, often by preying upon the most vulnerable members of society.

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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.

Draft Detainee Strike Strategy Paper


Draft Strategy Paper, 08 August 2011

For many years, Justice Action has been asked by detainees to coordinate a strike recognising their status as human beings with human rights. This has become a more frequent demand due to a lack of response from the Government relating to the ‘Offer of Hope’ refer to note 1, a prisoner initiative calling for government recognition of prisoners’ rights, and the ‘OUR PICK Report’, which exposes callous indifference to mental health patients (consumers). Through consultation, we have decided to raise our concerns once again while simultaneously having a strategic strike in place, which will be initiated if the Government continues to refuse to respond.

As one prisoner said, “We indeed have nothing to lose but our chains.”


The Offer of Hope was launched on the International Human Rights Day in 2005. It represents a prisoner initiative made to governments aimed at breaking the cycle of destructive vengeance in prisons. In the spirit of the motto from the Special Care Unit at Long Bay Gaol, Sydney:  "Freedom with responsibility: responsibility to self and community", prisoners have called upon governments to acknowledge their loss of freedom and entitlement to all other rights and safeguards provided to those outside prison.


Justice Action has represented detainee interests for decades through our work with prisoners, consumers and their communities. We represented all Australian detainees at the 2009 consultation for the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment. We defended Australian prisoners’ right to vote in 1997 and 2006, and presented for prisoners against privatisation in 2009. We have conducted prisoner consultations nationally and internationally. Justice Action is recognised by the union movement as tracking its history to the beginning of the penal colony. 


Prisoners, consumers, juvenile justice detainees and refugees have suffered increasingly over the past few decades due to an erosion of respect for their entitled human rights and liberties. Below are a few examples. Refer to note 3 for an extended version.

1.    Lithgow prisoners under threat to lose their right to smoke. Since May 3, 2008, NSW health has refused consumers, who are even more vulnerable than prisoners, the right to smoke.

2.    Prisoners die in custody due to institutional practices.

3.    Because of a lack of community support, and appropriate housing, prisoners are dying within the first year of their release back into their communities.

4.    Inadequate response to healthcare issues such as a non-supply of clean needles and syringes, means prisoners are highly susceptible to disease and illness.

5.    Dr Adrian Keller, the most senior figure in control of the hospital system, has abused the myth that mental health patients are predominantly dangerous. His agenda was to obtain extra funds for force medication and lock-up of consumers.

6.    Pelican Bay Prisoners involved in their hunger strike have asked for support.

7.    Women prisoners at Emu Plains Prison have lost the right to all day visits. This is detrimental to their ability to maintain a bond with their children and families, a significant factor that correlates with one’s well-being and self-esteem.

8.    Refugees are being placed in mandatory detention that has negative psychological and physical effects. Community processing based on inclusion represents a cost-effective and humane alternative.


-       This will be a disciplined non-violent strike.

-       Anyone physically injuring anyone else is destructive to the strategy and will be declared a non-participant.

-       Different people can support it in different ways.

-       We only end it when we have won. There will be no short-term victories.


-       Respect for our human rights - that OPCAT be enforced by law

-       Community access – access by families and communities

-       Freedom of expression – to vote, to communication

-       Freedom of association – no solitary confinement, the freedom to be a member of a group and express collective concerns and interests, and to not to be forced in a cell with an undesirable person (forcibly associated)

-       Privacy in detention – entitlement to smoke and not to be forcibly medicated

-       Control of services – right to choose legal, health and aftercare service providers

-       Representation in all issues affecting us with our communities in support

-       No privatisation – only governments can lock up citizens. Corporations make money from our misery expanding imprisonment and cutting costs. They control prisoners’ lives like slaves.

-       Privacy after detention – entitlement to a clean slate supported by defamation law

-       Refugees processed with the goal of community inclusion

-       Communities listened to by government


To be addressed during the consultation period.


·      Personal decisions – not imposed by threats or violence

·      Non-compliance with authority

·      Sickies, go slow

·      Shut down - work in all industries and administration to cease

·      Remain in cells/yards

·      Daily meetings and reports


To be announced


Senator Kerry Nettle; Dr Arthur Chesterfield Evans MLC; Peter Garrett MP; Lee Rhiannon MLC; The Public Interest Advocacy Centre; Sisters Inside; Prison Action and Reform-Tasmania; Deaths in Custody Watch Committee-WA; Indigenous Social Justice Association; Professor David Brown-UNSW; Mick Doleman, Asst Fed Secretary, MUA; John Maitland National Secretary CFMEU; Australian Aid for Ireland; Mercy Foundation; Redfern Legal Centre; Prisoners Legal Service-Qld; Stop the War Coalition.


A coalition based in the Bay Area with international supporters of prisoner rights advocates, lawyers, community members and anti-prison activist organizations. Prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison initiated the coalition and hunger strike. Coalition partners include: Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, All of Us or None, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, California Prison Focus, Prison Activist Resource Center, Critical Resistance, Kersplebedeb, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Revolution Newspaper, American Friends Service Committee, BarNone Arcata, and a number of individuals throughout the United States and Canada. To get in contact with the coalition, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

For more info: http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/



MPs, lawyers responsive to Strike Committees, ancilliary staff



Inside institutions



Note 1

Offer of Hope

Offer of Hope was launched on the International Human Rights Day in 2005. It represents a prisoner initiative made to governments aimed at breaking the cycle of destructive vengeance in prisons. In the spirit of the motto from the Special Care Unit at Long Bay Gaol, Sydney:  "Freedom with responsibility: responsibility to self and community", prisoners have called upon governments to acknowledge their loss of freedom and entitlement to all other rights and safeguards provided to those outside prison.

We ask for your help with:

-       education

-       medical care

-       contact with family, friends and the community.

We ask for our trust with:

-       freedom of association: (no solitary confinement, the freedom to be a member of a group and express collective concerns and interests; and to not to be forced in a cell with an undesirable person)

-       freedom of speech

We ask for you to believe we:

-       are humans with rights and entitlements

-       can change

-       have lives that are equally important as all human beings

We promise to make a positive contribution to society with a commitment to non-violence.

Note 2

Optional Protocol for the Prevention of Torture (OPCAT)

Australia is a signatory to the OPCAT but it has not yet been ratified. Denmark and the Netherlands recently questioned Australia as to when it would ratify the protocol. 50 other states and countries, including the U.K., have ratified it. By ratifying OPCAT, Australia will be obligated to establish National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to prevent torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, undignified or degrading treatment or punishment. The NPMs primarily achieve this through visits-based inspections that cover all places of detention, including offshore facilities such as immigration and military establishments. Due to OPCAT having a wide scope, it also applies to any facility or function where involuntary detainment occurs. Thus aged-care homes, police transport and court security for example must also be covered by these inspection systems.


Note 3

The Reasons

 1. Lithgow prisoners are under threat of losing their right to smoke in their cells without even being consulted. 80% of prisoners smoke, it is legal and one of the few pleasures controlled by prisoners. Prisoners have been entitled to smoke since the beginning of the penal colony, yet now that right to a simple pleasure is being threatened.

2. Prisoners die in custody due to institutional practices. A classic example is the case of Scott Simpson who was placed in segregation after killing a fellow inmate during an acute psychotic episode in 2002. During his segregation, Simpson was targeted, beaten and isolated until he became mentally ill. After four separate attempts over a 2-year period, Simpson finally took his own life.

3. Because of a lack of community support, and appropriate housing, many prisoners are dying within the first year of their release back into their communities. In a recent study conducted by the Medical Journal of Australia, research found that in 2007-2008, between 449 and 472 ex-prisoners died within 1 year of their release. Of these, between 68 and 138 died within 4 weeks of their release. This highlights ex-prisoners as being extremely vulnerable and being in requirement of better support services. http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/195_02_180711/kin10879_fm.html

4. In prisons, an inadequate response to healthcare concerns means that prisoners are highly susceptible to disease and illness. Prisoners are being refused clean needles and syringes. With 50% of prisoners being infected with a virus, and 60% of women prisoners having hepatitis C without normal treatment, the risk of non-infected prisoners becoming infected through the use of dirty syringes and needles is a massive issue

5. Following the most recent attack on mental health consumers where the most senior person in control of the hospital system, Dr Adrian Keller used the myth of consumer dangerousness to claim more money for forced medication and locking up the vulnerable. Calls have come from the hospital system to draw the line and call a strike.

6. We have been asked for support from the Pelican Bay Prison hunger strikers to demand an end to their torturous conditions.  http://prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com/

7. Prisoners and their families have lost visiting rights.

Women prisoners at Emu Plains Prison and their families have lost the right to all day visits. This is detrimental to all prisoners, families and the outside community as it decreases chances to creating and maintaining a strong support network.


8. Refugees processed with the goal of community inclusion - The UN Refugee Agency suggests the mandatory detention of refugees is an ineffective approach to deterrence, and a violation of international law.  Refugees, especially children and families, should be processed and released in the community ASAP rather than being treated as criminals. The institutionalisation of refugees further traumatises them both physically and mentally. Allowing refugees to enter the community could save the Government 69% of their $2 billion detention expenditure.


9. Communities ignored by government – For example, a government proposal to build a new women’s gaol in Windsor received 138 community submissions, 137 said no. The proposed attempt to privatise Parklea Prison received 453 submissions, 442 said no.


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.

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.

Redeveloping the Penal Colony




As Australians, we pride ourselves on upholding the qualities of freedom, egalitarianism, tolerance and mutual respect. So where in history lie the origins of our cherished ideal of the ‘Australian way of life’?

If we properly understood our penal history as a triumph of social inclusion, it would be evident that our battle cry for a ‘fair go’ was instigated in the equal treatment of all settlers, including convicts. Babette Smith, historian and journalist, reveals that the foundation of Australia’s egalitarian spirit lies in our penal history.

Read more

Xmas Day Prison Visits

"They’ve killed Santa and the Easter bunny.  Lucky they can’t get at God"  Those words on a prisoner's card perfectly express the vindictiveness of the system. Media release

Read more

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.



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