Tuesday, March 25, 2003

THE GULAG TREATMENT - The Trauma Of Court Appearances When Incarcerated

Prisoner transport vehicle

10th January 2003 It's about 4.40am, very darkoutside and although I'm expecting it, it is still intrusive when my dreams are interrupted by the sound of my name, it is the officer checking that I'm awake ready to face the long day ahead.

I shower and get dressed, make coffee and elect to bypass whatever is available for breakfast, toast usually or cereal. I want to look my best but how to accomplish this in the near dark with barely any cosmetics is beyond the realm of possibility for me.

Hair wet and partly awake I'm functioning on automation. It seems only a few minuets and the officer calls my name in an almost whispered shout, I respond diligently racing to the door to be let out into the night air eager to cause no hostilities on this auspicious day.

Wearing long pants and a sloppy Joe I'm feeling snug against the early morning pre-dawn. Must be around 5.00am and the "intruder" and I walk towards another house to pick up more "fodder for the mill". I'm wondering who it is, do I know her? Like her? An interesting personage or one of the sheep?

This time it's and old Aboriginal woman I give her what I feel is a respectful greeting and breath deeply the fresh cool air, it's been so hot and this is pleasant.

Others are added along the way towards the gate that opens into the main compound and we head to the Clinic for a pit stop to get medication or Methadone. I'm interested in getting dosed so early and produce an altered state perhaps the day will pass in a pleasant haze with hardly any input from me!

Thank God I remembered the ID. A "skinny Lizzy" type embarrassingly confesses her mistake and is instantly lectured and threatened that no medication will come her way unless the right amount of contrition is displayed. Tears always help in a situation like this. "Lizzy" has to wait until last.

We all wait until everyone has been attended to so no one can claim first place. The sky is starting to lighten and we are at the Reception.

All three officers are busy and we are herded into the cell type room, bars only so you're on hand when needed. We pass the time talking, getting to know each other or catch up with the latest gossip pass the time explaining to the uninitiated the differences between Mulawa and Emu Plains and asking after several friends I've been unable to see for a while.

A couple of women, exhausted already, nod off. I'm getting fed-up with the waiting, as are most the women. After about an hour the drivers arrive and finally the process of transforming us "inmates" into "normal" people starts. It's always a shock to see women in their everyday attire often a complete personality is transformed some in attractive confident ways others sluttish and appear shamed as they attempt to pull down a shrinking skirt.

Some show little concern that they look like clowns caught out in their evening attire hardly appropriate for an appearance in the so very conservative rooms of justice. We are called to recite our Min Numbers and date of births; do we know which court we are going to and for what? This to check that you understand what's happening and that you're fit for the trials ahead.

Today there are about 10 women waiting to be processed. Each of us are stripped of the gaol "greens" and dressed in our own clothes which takes only about 30 minuets owing to the use of two officers supervising the process instead of one.

After this we board the waiting truck and are taken the few 100 meters to the holding cells at Silverwater transport depot. It's now around 8.00am and the other holding cells are full of other prisoners probably from the various compounds within Silverwater. The trucks get packed with a load and soon everyone's Set off to court.

It's about 8.20am by the time I'm locked into a compartment back of truck with a high small one way window and a double seated chair facing the bolted door. I get the feeling of being entombed.

It's air-conditioned and soon feels so cold I wished I had a cardigan or jacket but thankfully my dress is long.

My vehicle goes towards the city and after only one stop to off-load a mystery guy who'd been isolated in his own compartment (probably a protection prisoner).

I'm at Newtown court. It's very much along the lines of an underground car park the same muffled sounds and monoxide smell. I'm escorted to a row of cells with uniform yellow paint and various angry graffiti as the decor. I choose the cell that appears the cleanest and sit on the concrete bunk that runs the full wall length. A constable hands in a foam mattress and thick blanket but no reading material and only three pieces of loo paper at any one time.

Absolutely no smoking or at least (seeing as these cells are run by cops rather than corrective services) no lighters...no fires or no setting fire to yourself.Seems the main concern these days is don't die whilst in police cells too much paper work. They are very courteous and professional, almost too nice to the point where I felt patronised.

I hope that so much pity might entice them to providing a decent cuppa if I'm very good I may get one I'm on a promise. After what feels like an hour but is probably less (first hour always seems the longest) I'm asked if I'd like to see the Legal Aid guy. Of course I don't pay vultures! The 15-minute interview held at the cell door proved constructive. I quickly explain what I require of him, answering the usual "form" questions and signing on the dollar dotted line that is required above and beyond all.

It's around 10.00am and already I feel enough is enough. I'm still groggy from lack of sleep and ponder if this is what one feels with jet lag, I've read each wall's epitaphs, poems and love stances, tried to envision who "AA Beecroft 89" was and the sad story behind the scribe. Some dates end in the future, others proclaim passed events all are reminders that someone else endured this and probably worse. I imagine the passerby's walking above on the summer pavement oblivious to my misery and impatience.

I've nodded off and awakened to tea and a white bread sandwich of cheese and processed meat. Who the hell would order such muck? Is this torture? Another straw to break my back? I've gone over the scene of the up coming court event and I know I've nothing to really fear it's only a small summary charge nothing that could add more onto my sentence.

I've gone through far more serious and traumatic appearances than this but the stories of passed injustices echo in my thoughts and I can't hide my anxiety in dreamless sleep any more, so I pace the length of my cage wishing it all over. It's very quiet now, no noise from the charge desk around the way, no tapping of typewriters, no sounds of conversation or movement from above I start to worry they've forgotten about me. Finally I hear footsteps coming down the stairs and I know they've come for me.

By the time I find myself in the courtroom staring at the Australian Emblem, I'm so wound up and frustrated all I want to do is show the world the contempt I feel. I know I must look a wreak, I feel so dirty and ugly and who wouldn't when their day started 12 hours ago, sitting in a dirty, cold cell for hours? I feel so drained and defeated. I'm so very grateful when I'm led back down to the cells after a five-minute appearance that concludes with a fine; I doubt I'll ever pay. Now I can take off the unaccustomed high-heeled shoes and no longer worry about messing up my hair. It's over I've my last court appearance over with thank the Gods!

So now the question is when's the truck arriving to take us back? How great to get back and relax get clean, eat something nice and share the day's experience with a mate. How wrong can you be? After an hour or longer the truck does arrive but the elation is soon over. At 4.30pm I'm on my supposed way back to Mulawa, however, I soon discover that my truck is on a route completely at odds to the route back. We end up at Waverly on the East Side amongst the peek hour traffic.

It's absolutely freezing again but worse than the morning as this time I'm on the truck five hours instead of just one! I curl up as far away from the air conditioner as possible and try to keep some body warmth. What would happen if I die from exposure back here? How long is it before the human body succumbs to such low temperature? I even moan and groan to expel some of the horror feelings I'm experiencing and wish I'd had more tobacco, made it last longer, but then how was I to know I'd be all these hours away from such luxuries? Each time I peer out the small window I find that we are miles from Silverwater Parklea, John Marony anywhere but on the road I wish for.

Finally we halt at the Silverwater barrier. It's 9.30pm by the Reception room clock and I'm soothingly assured that the rovers to escort me back to the wing won't be long. Amazingly the two rovers do soon arrive I can't help but voice some of my aggravation by tone and attitude, I'm in a filthy mood! We don't go straight to my part of the gaol though, we head instead to the clinic where after some radio exchanges between the rovers and the nursing staff, and a nurse appears.

This is a new policy I'm told; to ensure that the court returned inmates are in the same physical condition as when they left. The nurse appears embarrassed over this inconvenience and it's obvious I'm seriously pissed off. All I want is to get home revive sleep and forget this ever happened.

I truly realise why so many prisoners elect to cop petty charges whether they're guilty or not. I wonder how anyone could endure more than what I'd just gone through how would you face a long trial how could you function optimally? I doubt whether anyone could keep in the right frame of mind under such pressure. It can't be a fair system under these conditions.

I've asked lots of other prisoners about there experiences and been given similar descriptions we all agree that the system was better when each court was responsible for their own prisoners and the police were the drivers but owing to the greater numbers in attendance before the court and higher numbers of prisoners in custody I should think that any system will have problems.

But that is not to say that this issue is not in need of the most urgent attention. How can it be said that justice can prevail under these conditions? Will it take someone to sue the department before anything is changed? Or an even worse scenario a death caused by too much stress and physical exhaustion.

Suggestions: Blankets in the trucks, reading material, writing materials, able to have the occasional cigarette, choice of food, vending machines for hot/cold drinks or access to these facilities, basic cosmetics small concessions but necessary.

By: Annabel Walsh 25 March 03

THE ELEPHANT: Being drip-fed though the courts is a strategy used by the state to have you plead guilty. Like the Gulag treatment 1930-1940 Russia, you're taken to court, made extremely uncomfortable until you own up. When you arrive most times your not even taken up to the court itself and are returned to the jail to face a bad night. Cold meals, no cigarettes all day, no coffee all day.

A Long-Bay roll for lunch and an apple. Stressed to the max without any stimulation can be tantamount to torture. Concrete seating and cold steel framework are meant to freeze a person into submission. After surviving this experience you become hard just like the steel and concrete that supported your human existence in the cell. And you will remember it, just like the elephant, an experience you'll never forget! Ever!


Sir David Longland Correctional Centre
If it were possible to characterize the term B Block attitude in a modern dictionary, it would read something like "demeanor of inhabitance" or "state of mind or behaviour of occupants".

SIR DAVID LONGLAND CORRECTIONAL CENTRE QLD - CELLS IN B BLOCK The cells in B Block are like no other in any Queensland prison. After Mr. Cooper was severally embarrassed by the Abbott and Co escape on 4th November 1997, he visited B Block and the surrounding grounds. It was that visit, by Cooper, that set in motion a plan (up the ante) to make sure security in B Block would never embarrass him again. It was like closing the gate after the horse has bolted.

Inspector General Ignored On Womens Prison
Four months after a report from the Inspector General on Mulawa Correctional Centre, key recommendations involving safety and welfare of prisoners and staff have been ignored. Kathryn Armstrong (former chair of Inmate Development Committee) and Annabel Walsh, released from Mulawa Womens Prison in February, have produced an independent report confirming the findings of the Inspector General.

Distribution of: 'How to Votes in prisons'?
Justice Action have received information from Andrew Burke of the NSW Greens that they have enquired with the Department of Corrective Services as to the procedure for distributing their How To Votes in prisons in the period before the election.

Getting Justice Wrong DPP make full admissions
Back in May 2001 Nicholas Cowdery QC made an error at law by giving a speech called Getting Justice Wrong at the University of New England, Armidale Thursday, 31 May 2001. Sir Frank Kitto, Lecture now published at the DPP website. At page six, paragraph 3 under the heading:

Inspector-General: The Greens believe that the role of the Inspector-General is crucial to the proper functioning of the prison system. It has never been more important to have a powerful watchdog role than today. Section 3.11 of our Criminal Justice Policy commits the Greens to "strengthening the role of the Inspector-General of Prisons."

Long Bay Prison: The latest inside story
Private food purchases called Buy-Ups that normally take care of the prisoners additional food nutrition in Jail has been changed.

Doing time even harder: 146 prisoners far from home
The United States, however, has detained without trial about 650 men from 43 countries. They include Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib, who are held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base as part of the sweep against global terrorism [scapegoats for the Coalition of the Killing's, pre-emptive strikes, occupation and genocide for resources in the Middle East.]

Human Rights 'Framed'
Here is a quick report on our Human Rights Commission approach on Framed (the quarterly magazine of Justice Action) being banned from all NSW prisons. After 42 issues went in.

Prison Privatisation: Death camps looming in NSW
I asked for the identification of the person I was speaking to and was told that I was not entitled to that information. I needed to verify the call and asked for a name or number to register my call because I was asked to get those details by my coordinator.The person refused to identify themselves either by name or number. I asked to be transferred to a senior person and was refused. The person I spoke to then hung up the phone.

Justice Action criticises Govt's victim voice policy
Victims are not being properly considered in compensation and no expression is given to them, of community goodwill. A spokesperson for Justice Action Mr Brett Collins said, "No community expression or concern is given to the victims of crime. They feel their pain is not acknowledged by the government which tries to balance pain against pain. Never! The community is being misled."

NSW education professor warns further commitment needed
The author of a report on the New South Wales education system has urged the major political parties to do more for education in the election campaign.

Coalition proposes to exploit children
The Coalition says it would reform juvenile justice in New South Wales to require the courts to "get tough" on juvenile crime.

Corrections Victoria and criminal acts: SCS-4\320 UPDATE
You have stated "Section 30 of the Corrections Act 1986 and the Information Privacy Act 2000, restricts the release of confidential information regarding prisoners, I therefore am unable to provide any information regarding this matter."

Death camps looming in Victoria
A letter was received on 15 January 03 from SCS-4\320 a remand prisoner in Victoria's Barwon Prison I later found out that the prisoner was in the Acacia High Security Unit.

Jail search finds knives, syringes
Mr Brett Collins a spokesperson for Justice Action said, "It shows there is a lot of desperation in the prison system at the moment and has been for some time."

Take crime talk beyond the bars:'lobby group'
A coalition of academics, crime experts, welfare and church groups is preparing to launch an intensive pre-election campaign aimed at refocusing the attention of NSW politicians from harsh sentencing reforms to crime prevention strategies.

Six weeks, six months, six years: inmates have little chance of making fresh start More than 15,500 people are released from NSW prisons each year, twice the number of 20 years ago. But new research shows many ex-prisoners find it impossible to reintegrate into society and, months after release, are worse off than before they went to jail.

Fiona Stanley, the children's crusader
It is all about prevention. As Fiona Stanley sees it, with one in five Australian teenagers experiencing significant mental health problems, there are just not enough treatment services to cope with the demand.

Attempted thong theft costs $560
A man has been fined $500 after appearing in a northern New South Wales court charged with stealing a pair of thongs.

NSW A-G moves to stop criminals and ex-criminals selling stories
From next month criminals or ex-criminals who try to profit (earn a living for paid work, like writing a book etc..) from their crimes in New South Wales will have the proceeds confiscated.

NSW Govt criticised over criminal justice record
Key criminal justice groups have described the New South Wales Government's record on justice issues as a "disappointing performance".

The decision of the Carr government to appoint John Jacob Klok as the new Assistant Commissioner for Corrective Services in charge of security represents a statement of contempt to all those concerned about law and justice in NSW.

How NSW Dept of Corrective Services spent $800,000 dollars to rehabilitate a Sydney man sentenced to life for second murder! A spokesperson for Justice Action Mr Pro Grams said, "Well it's your money, how would you like it spent? And what do you think about rehabilitation on behalf of the Department of Corruptive Services?

Prisoners Representatives Excommunicated
Ron Woodham, Commissioner Corrective Services stated "[this Department] does not recognise Justice Action as an advocate on correctional centre issues." He has ordered a ban on all Justice Action material inside the NSW prison system. This resulted from a request for the approval of the latest edition of Framed (the Magazine of Justice Action) to be distributed throughout NSW prisons as has occurred for the past ten years.

Academic devises scheme for low income earners to pay back fines:
A professor at the Australian National University [another one of John Howard's hand picked losers like Peter Saunders the social services head-kicker has come up with a scheme which could see low income earners pay back criminal fines over a period of time.

Dept of Corrective Services: Rotten Ron Woodham on the ropes
This is The Freeedom Of Speech and The Press in a goldfish-bowl! Herr Goebells has spoken. Zieg Heil! (Which means, actually: "aim-for health!" incidentally)Apologies for not making meetings ... my first experiences with Woodham (then a -screw-gestapo-minor-with-a-friendly-dog - AND YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS WHEN EVEN HIS DOG DOESN`T LIKE HIM?)

At the Minister's Pleasure The case of Michael Kelly
Michael is caught up in a particularly cruel version of the game of Cat and Mouse. Because he is classified as a forensic patient under the Mental Heath Act of NSW, the Minister for Health is his master, not the Minister for Corrective Services. And the Minister for health will not let him go.

Name removed by request served time in prison decades ago. Shes still being punished today. According to commonwealth and state legislation, ex-prisoners applying for jobs must declare any conviction that fits into the following categories: less than 10 years old, more than 10 years old but served more than 30 months in prison.

The Australian Law Reform Commission had recommended that the Innocence Panel be independent and have the power to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice.

Australian prisons are fast becoming the new asylums of the third millennium. The prison industry is booming, while Australia spends far less on mental health services than similar countries.

NSW Department of Corrective Services attack right to privacy
Corrective Services Minister Richard Amery has a problem attacking prisoners right to privacy.It seems to us that a civil society is best served when social justice laws are applied to all people regardless of their circumstances. Once government starts making exceptions which disadvantage certain groups and individuals, such laws are meaningless.

Litigants are drowning: in the High Court
There were so many self represented litigants appearing in the High Court that more than half of its registry staff's time was taken up in dealing with them. The "go it alone" litigants have to take on tasks well above their qualified league causing them stress. This growing problem cannot be left unchecked.

Everyone wants to get out of 'jail' but 'Framed' wants life: Rotten Ron on the ropes On 2 May 2002, Justice Action received a faxed letter from Manager of DCS Operations Support Branch saying that, in his view, articles in Framed edition #42 'lack balance and integrity' and he is therefore 'not prepared to recommend this issue of Framed for placement in to correctional centre libraries.' Prisoners and those concerned about prisoner issues have very few sources of information.

Methadone addicts formed within: 'NSW Prisons'
The New South Wales Opposition has accused the State Government of turning jailed heroin users into Methadone addicts.

Murder charge first for DNA data bank link, but not the same as solving the murder Mass DNA testing of prisoners has [allegedly] led to the first NSW case of a person being charged with a previously unsolved murder as a result of a controversial gene-matching data bank.

Medical Records: Alex Mitchell's lost world
Perhaps we can get your medical report and spew it around publicly so you can see how it feels. But surely we do not have to go that far. And of course we are law-abiding citizens and I should think it would be enough to remind you of your ethics to report at all.

Prisoners can prove innocence for $20?
Les Kennedy Daily Telegraph reported today that" Prisoners who believe that DNA will prove they were wrongly convicted will have the chance to prove their innocence for a mere $20 administration fee. The move comes 20 months after NSW inmates were asked to provide DNA for comparison with a databank of DNA from unsolved crime scenes for possible convictions.

NSW opposition pledges review of detention laws
A spokesperson for Justice Action Ms Anal Advice said " NSW Prisons are a sex offence if you have been raped, bashed and squatted down to be strip searched. People should be diverted from going there at all material times".

Civil libertarians condemn planned changes to prisoners' privacy rights The New South Wales Government is using a recent case involving [framed] serial killer Ivan Milat to justify its decision to remove the privacy rights of prisoners. But really just another attack on Ivan Milat from Parliament House.

The punishment: Is the 'crime'
The punishment is the crime according to retired chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Justice Alistair Nicholson. "Smacking a child ought to be seen as assault".

Mr. & Mrs. Mandatory Sentencing
Well congratulations to the bride and groom. Could you please be upstanding and raise your glasses for Mr. And Mrs. Mandatory.

Just wipe your arse on Ivan again Minister?
Mr Amery Minister for Corrective services has a problem with finding a toilet roll to wipe his bottom. Justice Action is appalled at the attacks by Amery and others in parliament on Ivan Milat's right to privacy and their attacks on the Privacy Commissioner and his office.

NSW Parliament Bitter Pills To Swallow?
One delusion pill: So people who investigate their own mistakes make sure there was no mistake or someone else made the mistake. Perhaps you're not biased and you will be honest about it.

NSW prisons - primary industry bailed up!
In many quiet regional centres around NSW there is a new primary industry shaping up. It has something to do with Bail but not with bales. The minister for Agriculture Richard Amery who also has the prisons portfolio is now committed to farming prisoners.

Black Nexus
The Separation of Powers Doctrine is nowcontaminated witharangeofcolours, now leaving us with a black shirt on a once blue bridge that crossed that thin blue line. The 'Amery and Woodham show'.

Prison Mind Games-Do they exist?
Directives are given inside the prison system that are not consistent with the law in NSW. And not in the good interests of the health and well being of the prisoners.

The Government is likely to abolish the Inspector General of Corrective Services position The Mulawa inspection report recommendations below strictly illustrate how important he is.

Chronology - A History of Australian Prisons
[Allegedly:] The events that have shaped NSW prisons - from convict days through royal commissions, to the Supermax of today. [I say allegedly because no one should trust Four Corners [Walls], why? Because they spill out the propaganda of the day for the Government, whether it be wrong or right. A government that lies and has no remorse about it.]