Wednesday, March 2, 2005

In memory of the late Bob Jewson

Bathurst Prison

We was sad to hear that Bob Jewson had died recently after a battle with cancer. That is all the details I have; apparently there was no funeral at his request. Others may know more.

Some will remember that Bob was In the Bathurst riot in February 1974 and was a leading member of the Prisoners Action Group now - (JusticeACTION) upon his release.

He wrote Stir, the screenplay upon which the film Stir was based. He played a major role in agitating for a Royal Commission into the events at Bathurst, and when the Nagle Commission commenced hearings Bob was to be found every day sitting in court for the duration, following proceedings for the PAG.

His experience, insight and detailed knowledge of the events at Bathurst and elsewhere were not only utilised to brief PAG lawyers but were regularly fed through to Counsel Assisting the Inquiry and other lawyers enabling them to follow lines of questioning they may have missed and to more effectively unravel the Bathurst cover-up.

In my view Bob Jewson was one of the unsung heroes of the Nagle inquiry, a sort of unofficial (and unpaid) prisoners'/peoples' Commissioner, keeping the bastards honest.

The Nagle Report has Bob's fingerprints all over it, particularly the sections on Bathurst 1970 and 1974.

He was the author of "Bathurst Gaol and the Royal Commission into Prisons - A Summary by the Prisoners' Action Group" which was published by the PAG in the Alternative Criminology Journal vol 2 no 3 feb 1978.George Zdenkowski in the editorial to the issue remarks that:

"This summary has been prepared by PAG member Bob Jewson - the only full-time unofficial observer of the Royal Commission. It will be clear to the reader that the approach has been low-key. Much of the material is drawn from the transcript of the proceedings. Indeed, a good deal of the condemnatory evidence emerges from the Department of Corrective Services' written submissions or from the lips of its representatives.

Bob's rationale is: why condemn the brutality, the intransigence, the rejection of conciliatory initiatives by prisoners and the duplicity when the official words and actions do it all by themselves."

People who knew him will remember an extremely kind, gentle and generous man, angry at injustice and motivated to attempt to reveal and correct it. He had a good eye for detail and a grasp of and love for the
Australian vernacular.

May he rest in peace. Let us raise a glass to Bob and remember him and his contribution to the prison struggle.

David Brown

By David Brown and Justice Action posted 2 March 05


Thirty years ago Bathurst Gaol was infamous for its bashings, floggings, atrocious conditions and oppressive restrictions. On 3 February 1974 long-festering resentments boiled over into a riot which saw the gaol gutted. The uprising was brutally put down, with guards shooting prisoners in the back and forcing them to run the gauntlet of their batons. Now prisoners say the bad old days are on the way back. This is their account:

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