Thursday, April 24, 2003

Yes Minister: 'Justice Action meets John Hatzistergos Justice Mininster'

We have taken a few days to pass this on, as we wanted clarification of the minister's statement about the purposes of imprisonment before publishing it.

Because he is moving his office close to Roden Cutler House they said they are still reorganising and unable to respond efficiently.

In order to begin on a reasonable note in our relationship we have been patient. Today the Chief of Staff said that "rehabilitation" was included as a role for prison, alongside deterrence and retribution. [? Retribution until the prisoners' are released?]

Meeting with Minister for Justice John Hatzistergos. 15 April 2003 10:30 to 11.30am

Present: John Hatzistergos, John Gillmore (Chief of Staff), Kathryn Armstrong, Stacy Scheff, Brett Collins, Michael Strutt. The Minister claimed to have not received the agenda for the meeting. After his staff tried for several minutes to find the fax, the Minister then began to ask questions of us.

The Minister questioned Justice Action's structure, funding, membership, and credibility. He acted as though he didn't know who we were, although we had provided a careful collation of material about our activities the previous day, and he had been present at several Parliamentary hearings where we gave evidence or were present. He also said he'd viewed the video of the Stateline programs we had provided. He said the most important thing was that the meeting was taking place at all.

We pointed out that we met with Debus every two months over a 2 and half year period, and with Woodham every 6 weeks, but he said: "But Amery wouldn't even meet with you". We expressed our wish to work with the government for a better outcome for the stakeholders.

The discussion then moved on to the listed agenda items.

1. Organise a schedule of regular meetings in order to maintain effective communication and cooperation.

The Minister refused to set a schedule of regular meetings, but said that he would meet with us as issues arose.

Brett raised the issue of community access to prisons. He requested reinstatement of authorised passes for JA. The Minister said that there were many groups who had access, that it was only JA that was banned.

Brett said that there was a tendency towards exclusion that was a clear trend. The Minister said that if this was the case, he would look into it, but was not prepared to intervene on behalf of one group.

2. How To Votes. This includes both access for prisoners to electoral information, and the fact that the previous Minister was misinformed of Government policy in this area. (Background information faxed to your office by Senator Aden Ridgeway on 7 April 2003.) The Minister claimed that he was not aware of the issue, but then said that it was not appropriate to politicise the prisons and said that he would never allow political agitators inside prisons.

We corrected the Minister's view, and said that the issue was simply about allowing the voters to have access to How To Votes. He said he was not prepared to make any statements about it then, but he would look into it. When pressed further, he asserted that it was a positive outcome for us because he had agreed to look at the issue, that if pushed further he could change his mind and refuse to look at it.

Brett raised the point that we were in the position to challenge the election and drag the matter through the courts. The Minister refused to give any further assurances, but had no argument to counter the point that voters had a right to access How To Votes.

3. Framed. Acknowledgement of prisoners right to access political communications subject to the rules of submission agreed to by NSW DCS and other states in Australia for 14 years. Framed contains critical, but legitimate material, and is the only outlet for independent information and expression for prisoners.

An archive of back issues will be supplied before the meeting. The Minister was obviously familiar with the publication and claimed to have read all of the material we supplied (issues 34-44). He said that the article about Woodham was extremely inflammatory and factually incorrect. He said that we would have to convince the Commissioner to allow it in, and that he would not take a stand on it.

4. Corrections Health Services. Need for a response from DCS to requests for a serving prisoner to be a member of the CHS Consumer Council. The Minister informed us that a decision had been made to include a serving prisoner on the Council. He said that it would be a prisoner chosen by the Commissioner and the position would be reviewable at any time.

5. Breakout Support Services. An initiative of Breakout/Justice Action to create a safer community and prevent crime by reducing recidivism rates amongst former prisoners and divert people from custodial settings. This involves employment mentoring and living areas. The Minister said that there would be a tendering process for the 2005 budget, but that the current budget was already allocated. Brett said that we were not interested in money, but rather a statement of support which could be shown to the Health and Education Departments. The Chief of Staff informed us that a letter of support would not influence the decisions of these departments.

6.Hep C/Lifestyles Unit. Is the Lifestyle Unit closing? And what is the status of developing an alternative therapeutic unit that can accommodate prisoners who are HCV positive? The Minister said the unit will be closed due to lack of use, but that other alternatives were being explored. The Minister asked why we never looked at the positive things that were happening in the prisons. Brett said that if this was the case, he should show us. Brett again asked for access to the prisons to see for himself. The Minister said that he didn't have to.

The discussion turned to the more general attitude of the Department. Brett asked if Woodham had the support of the Minister. The Minister answered that he did.

The Minister made the point that people are in prison because they have committed offences, and that there are people inside that he could not sit down and have a cup of tea with and talk about their offence.

[There are also ministers, commissioners, and prison guards who commit offences, but does he have cups of tea with them or talk about their offences?]

Brett raised the experience of Barlinnie/Inverness in Scotland where a more social environment was introduced to the most intolerable circumstances, and it was found that prisoner behaviour improved, and prison officers had a better working environment.

Evaluation of the special care unit (at Long Bay Gaol, New South Wales)

The Minister said that the three roles of prison were 'retribution', deterrence, and rehabilitation. He said that Justice Action was not serving the interests of the people we claimed to represent because we gave fuel to talk-back radio and tabloid journalism. The phrase he used was 'pre-nuptial offspring' of the shock jocks.

He claimed that the article about Peter Chester and visiting rights for the children was biased and incorrect. Brett inquired as to the intentions of the Department with regard to the Inspector General1s position. The Minister said that there would be a review conducted by Avery (ex police Commissioner) and Vern Dalton (ex DCS Commissioner).

Brett expressed the view that this was inherently biased against independent oversight. The Minister explained that this was the process initiated by the government, and that if we wished, we could submit our views to them.

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.

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.

Evaluation of the special care unit (at Long Bay Gaol, New South Wales)

Summary only click link for full report pdf:

Grantees: Dr D W Porritt, Research and Statistics Division, NSW Department of Corrective Services . Criminology Research Council grant ; (8/85)

The Special Care Unit (SCU) is a 20-bed self-contained unit within the NSW Department of Corrective Services which opened on 1 January 1980. It has a short-term goal of assisting inmates with behavioural/psychological problems to adapt to the prison environment and a long-term goal to facilitate their rehabilitation back into society. The research was designed to evaluate the short-term goal, and to provide feedback on staff and prisoner perceptions of the benefits and/or problems of the unit.

A total of 140 inmates were interviewed either at entry to the unit, at exit or at three month follow-up, as well as 24 inmates in a comparison group. Several psychological tests were also administered including the Interpersonal Behaviour Survey, Jessness Behaviour Checklist, Lovibond's Self Analysis Questionnaire and Spielberger's Tait Anxiety Scale. Interview results revealed that inmates had learnt to overcome initial apprehension about therapy groups with prison officers and were able to discuss themselves and their problems openly with most staff (including prison officers). They reported heightened self awareness and an improved ability to relate to other inmates and prison officers after leaving the unit. The results of psychometric tests showed statistically significant differences between groups but these did not have any clear interpretation.

Data were also analysed for a total of 45 questionnaires and 28 interviews from staff who had worked in the unit between April 1984 and June 1986. Staff reported enhancing their skills in working with inmates and particularly in dealing with angry or distressed prisoners.

More generally, other benefits and/or problems were reported by both staff and prisoners. The reported benefits appeared to derive from the unique environment created in the SCU when compared to the main gaol system. For instance, the high degree of mixed staffing was rated as having a 'positive effect on inmates' by 70 per cent of the staff, and none said that this had a negative effect. Some staff also reported that they felt that working in the SCU improved their prospects for promotion and improved their interpersonal and communication skills. Some staff also said it improved their communication with their families. Inmates said that the unit offered them better conditions than the main gaol system (for example, more visits and phone calls, opportunity to wear their own clothes) and claimed that they enjoyed greater freedom in the unit.

Some of the problems mentioned by staff were difficulties adjusting to the unit, the location of the unit inside the walls of a larger prison, the selection of staff and inmates not being stringent enough, and lack of training resources for staff. Staff also mentioned that they felt inmates should be provided with more support after leaving the unit. Some of the inmates said that they found it difficult to make the transition from the unit back to main gaol and would have liked more support. A few inmates mentioned that they felt the SCU program itself was very hard for them, because they found group counselling too confronting or they felt uncomfortable talking openly in a group. Many of the inmates who had these difficulties did not complete their stay in the unit. More generally, a high non-completion rate was a continuing problem for the unit with a non-completion rate of 48 per cent for the period of this evaluation. Many inmates were expelled from the unit for non-work or drug use.

In short, the research provides some support for the conclusion that the SCU achieved its short-term goals; to enhance the ability of troubled prisoners to cope with the gaol environment through improved staff-to-prisoner and prisoner-to-prisoner relations.

The report makes recommendations based on the research findings to:

improve on the number of inmates who complete the program;
help inmates with stress imposed by the program;
support inmates and staff leaving the unit;
enhance the network of available programs;
implement a procedure to provide feedback on post-exit functioning of inmates;
provide a standardised assessment for staff in the unit; and
implement performance indicators for the unit.

By Justice Action 24 April 03

THE REPORTER: Pre-nuptial offspring? So who was the father?


Beyond Bars Alliance colleagues
There are certainly problems with the IG's terms of reference and the position is not nearly as strong as it should or could be but it should not be lost it should be strengthened (along the lines of the UK IG of Prisons) to provide an independent voice to the Parliament regarding activities and processes that otherwise happen behind prison walls.

Submissions for Review of Inspector General
There is a very serious attack happening on the office of the NSW Inspector General of Corrective Services. A secret and flawed review is taking place at this moment, and we call upon all individuals and organisations interested in the area to make their views known.

Two thirds of a billion dollars and DCS can't work out what authority they have? "Two thirds of a billion dollars of taxpayers money and the Department of Corrective Services can't work out what authority they have to hold the people who are in jail."

Australia: Private Prisons, Junee NSW
When I got to Junee I was given nothing except bed linen. That's it! No clothing. I had to put my name down for clothing, which they said I could get on Saturday. When I went down to get my clothing on Saturday I was told they had nothing but I was told that I could buy what I wanted on their monthly buy-up. In the mean time I got rashes between my legs from the dirty clothes I had on.

Justice Action meets with new Minister for Justice
John Hatzistergos Minister for Justice is meeting with Brett Collins and Justice Action today at 11:30 a.m.

The prisoners of Lithgow Correctional Centre have requested that the Lithgow Inmate Development Committee write to you on their behalf and ask that the phone systems heavy burden upon the prisoners at this institution and their families be reviewed. I will outline the problems.

Health problems denied in prison
Lithgow Correctional Centre (IDC) Inmate Development Committee "Currently there are 72 inmates on the doctors waiting list with only one doctor coming fortnightly and usually on a weekend".

'Old guard dog' dig in heels on NSW Govt front bench - The rolling of the filthy heads... The New South Wales Premier is yet to convince at least one of his long-standing ministers to stand aside to make way for new blood on the front bench.

NSW Prisons Inmate Development Committee speaks out
I am writing on behalf of the IDC Inmate Development Committee in area 3, MSPC at Long Bay. Area 3 is where, the Department is congregating minimum-security offenders within maximum-security walls whilst awaiting mandatory programs at Cubit (Sex Offenders Program).

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.

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.]