Tuesday, May 24, 2005

PRISON ACTION & REFORM INC: Tas Prison Complaints

PAR documented report May 24 2005 1

TASMANIA: Prison Action & Reform was formed in response to the five deaths in custody that occurred between August 1999 and January 2000. Chris Wever, Vickie Douglas, Rose Macaulay, Judith Santos and others came to together to fight for reform in an outdated, increasingly cash-strapped and uncaring system. Of the original members, three lost loved ones to the Tasmanian prison system.

Over the last five years the group has evolved from a small group of individuals who had both the deaths in custody and a willingness and desire to change in common, to a group that has expanded in its scope and focus.

Today the group has proven to be an important tool for prisoners/detainees (past and present), relatives and friends of prisoners/detainees and any other interested member of the community who has issues related to the justice system and in particular, the delivery of custodial sentences.

Prison Action & Reform aims to bring accountability and transparency to a system shrouded in secrecy and denial.

We believe that it is imperative that the culturally endemic and entrenched practices that have been allowed to exist in the past must be dismantled and changed to a proactive system response underpinned by a rehabilitative philosophy. ‘Prison as punishment not for punishment’.

We are a small system and yet we have witnessed a disturbing and troubling trend to imprison more and more people. We believe the Tasmanian prison system does not achieve its intended outcome to ‘deter’ or ‘correct’.

Instead the present system only serves as a punitive response to punishment resulting in further damage to people and continues the expensive cycle of repeat incarceration. It does not rehabilitate.

We believe we could be the best prison system in the world and it is with this aim in mind that Prison Action & Reform will continue to use its lobby, advocacy and support role to bring about the necessary change on behalf of a silenced prisoner community.

A society can be judged by the way it treats its most socially marginalized and Prison Action & Reform is committed to expanding public awareness in regard to prison issues and bringing about social change.

The prison system belongs to us all and it is up to the entire community to ensure that our system supports human rights and provides a culturally supportive system that promotes rehabilitation and personal change through the practice, and adoption of world best practices and principles.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 2

Prison Action & Reform (PAR) have written the following report in response to the inaccurate statements by the Attorney General Judy Jackson provided to the Tasmanian media; her political colleagues; and the Tasmanian community.

The report will provide clarity and insight regarding the roles of the organization, statistical data collected from issues raised with the group, and other relevant information which we believe will assist in gaining informed insight into the function of our group.

This report is organized into several sections.

1. Prison Action and Reform Group Inc Mission Statement

Prison Action and Reform is an independent coalition of individuals formed in response to community concern awakened by the deaths of 5 people in Tasmanian prison institutions between August 1999 and January 2000.

Prison Action & reform aims to provide a forum to advocate on behalf of a silenced group (prisoners); for the improvement of existing conditions within the Tasmanian Corrections System; and for the development of a Corrections System that is appropriate for Tasmania, complies with all applicable domestic and international human rights laws, and accords with world best practice and benchmarks.

In particular, Prison Action & Reform supports the establishment of a statutory body – a prison inspectorate that answers directly to parliament – with the express purpose of bringing independent external scrutiny to the standards and operational practices in the Tasmanian corrections system. We believe such a body is vital to prison reform and to the provision of progressive, effective prison services in this State.

2. Outlined below is data collected by the President of PAR, the assistant to the President of PAR and the Manager and Complaints Officer of PAR.

The data listed below shall be expanded on to provide further clarity.

Data has been collected in the form of referrals made to PAR from a variety of sources.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 3

The data provided focuses on issues raised from December 2004 - May 2005.

From December 2004 – May 2005, 651 issues have been raised with PAR.

The issues that have been present to the group are listed and broken down below:

Physical Abuse issues 22 complaints 3.38%
Psychological Abuse issues 30 complaints 4.60%
Sexual Abuse issues 7 complaints 1.07%
Conditions in D7 and D8 14 complaints 2.15%
Administrative Problems 13 complaints 1.99%
Court issues 1 complaint .15%
Confidentiality issues 5 complaints .76%
Inmate management issues 43 complaints 6.60%
Legal Matters 6 complaints .92%
Education/rehabilitation issues 14 complaints 2.15%
Family support issues 35 complaints 5.37%
Inmate safety issues 30 complaints 4.60%
Professional visit issues 1 complaint 0.15%
Mail issues 18 complaints 2.76%
Clothing issues 4 complaints 0.61%
Inmate food issues 121 complaints 18.50%
Inmate canteen issues 30 complaints 4.60%
Accommodation issues 24 complaints 3.68%
Custodial Officer issues 52 complaints 7.98%
Physical Health issues 81 complaints 12.44%
Mental health issues 30 complaints 4.60%
Property issues 2 complaints 0.30%
Information access/sharing issues 33 complaints 5.06%
Box visit issues 21 complaints 3.22%
Contact visit issues 10 complaints 1.53%
Investigation problems 15 complaints 9.09%
Over crowding issues 14 complaints 2.15%
Inmate release issues 3 complaints 0.46%
Drug and alcohol issues 2 complaints 0.30%

The majority of issues bought to the attention of PAR have been through:

Inmates/detainees 85

Parents/spouse/relatives 68

PAR 37

Other referring agencies have been: custodial officers, health workers, the media, and members of the public, academics and on 3 occasions the Attorney Generals office. Of the 651 complaints contained above the most common complaints relate to management, food, support and issues relating to delivery of custodial sentences.

All referrals made to PAR have been collated and filed.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 4

Listed below is a summary of contents of issues raised regarding the most statistically significant data, which has been highlighted.

• Physical Abuse Issues 22 complaints

The majority of complaints received relate to abuse sustained by inmates in the yards, and not just under the landings of the divisions. Complaints talk about assaults which have occurred in full view of custodial staff.

There are approximately 4 complaints against a particular custodial officer in relation to cruelty towards inmates and assaults against them.

Outcome: The majority of these issues remain unresolved and the physical abuse issues continue to be raised with PAR without resolution.

• Psychological Abuse Issues 30 complaints

These complaints have the common theme of intimidation by other inmates and in particular intimidation, verbal assault (these complaints are lodged by timid inmates and not the notoriously verbally aggressive inmates) and taunting behaviour towards them by custodial officers.

3 Custodial officers have been named and their names are frequently found in the complaints raised.

Other complaints included: inconsistency of information and procedure delivered to them via prison staff. This resulted in great confusion and inmates were not clear about policies, procedures or their relationship with uniformed staff because of the changing attitudes towards them.

Outcome: These issues remain unresolved, and complaints related to this issue are a consistent and regular occurring theme.

•Inmate Management Issues 43 complaints

These complaints have been received by inmates and family members who despair over handling and management of inmates. Issues raised relate to questionable processes relating to investigation of prison offences (not seen to be in keeping with the Corrections Act)

. The management issues relate to highly inappropriate placement of inmates and the increased risk of harm to inmates with decisions made by custodial officers.

Delivery of punitive measures for “simple” offences, i.e., an inmate who was unable to eat a meal that had been pureed together was punished by having the power to his cell switched off for 48 hours. After 48 hours it took a further 20 hours for the power to be turned back on.

Outcome: Unresolved and ongoing

• Family Support Issues 35 complaints

These complaints vary from families who have not been provided with information about prison procedures in relation to: box and contact visits, the arunta phone system, bringing in clothing for the person detained in jail, the mail system etc.

There is no provision for booklets to be provided to families and friends so that they are able to better understand the prison community and the prisons’ expectations and obligations of both inmates and family members. PAR has requested on a number of occasions that they be provided with the prison family handbook so that the information could be disseminated at appropriate locations but this request was not answered.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 5

NGO’s and government departments are required to have booklets, pamphlets readily available to consumers and the public regarding their service, consumer rights and obligations etc. There is no information displayed in any area of the prison where visitors or general public have access to. This situation impacts heavily on relatives and friends who become annoyed and frustrated when they are told that they are cannot provide certain materials for their loved ones, unable to visit their loved ones, etc as it is contrary to prison procedures.

Without adequate information the family members cannot possibly know prison procedures and processes and cannot be expected to know.

Additionally and significantly, there have been numerous complaints regarding the processing and manner of the processing of prison visitors by custodial officer staff at the front gate. The most common complaint relates to rudeness, use of intimidatory behaviour and lack of information There is no adequate information-route for families when issues have been raised with justice and/or correctional staff.

Moreover, other than the Ombudsman’s department, a grievance procedure available to families and relatives does not exist.

Outcome: no satisfactory resolution

• Inmate Safety Issues 30 complaints

These complaints mainly contain alarming and in-depth detail connected to multiple assaults against inmates, poor placement of inmates in divisions, releasing of inmates from the prison hospital and placing them in divisions where they are taunted, abused and assaulted by other inmates. Inadequate monitoring of ‘at risk’ inmates is occurring in all divisions.

Outcome: unresolved

• Inmate Food Issues 121 complaints

The issues raised below have been forwarded to the health department.

Detailed complaints were forwarded by a prison worker who also visited the prison kitchen and inspected the cook-chill methodology. The worker was deeply concerned by what they saw. Complaints have been received from all divisions except one.

• The food is cooked and then placed on the benches (some sealed with the lids on the food, and some exposed).

Once they had cooled for a while they are then placed in the cool room. It is not clear whether they are cooked, sealed and rapidly frozen as the cook chill method suggests.

• Bird’s habitat in the mess rooms. Bird excrement fouls the tables and condiments such as butter and sugar. No provision was ever provided to clean this off prior to eating.

• Food that is exposed means that it becomes oxygenated and the risk of contamination, especially for food such as chicken and fish is high.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 6

• The inmates in the kitchen said that the prison did not have the correct equipment for freezing the food and this is why they are placed in the cool room.

• Inmates complained that the food they received had a layer of water on top of it.

It is believed that this is related to the food sweating as it has not been correctly frozen after cooking and has been allowed to cool before being refrigerated.

• The meat is often so tough and dry that it is inedible.

• At times the food has contained aluminum shavings.

• Often the meals were either not heated at all or were barely warm at all.

• Some inmates report that their meals were frozen in the middle.

• Inmates state that at times the food looks discoloured (grey) in particular, the meat and potatoes.

• Inmates report that the meals sometimes have such a foul odor that they do not eat it for fear of food poisoning.

• If the inmates do not eat the meals because they do smell foul they are refused any further food and do not receive a meal.

• A worker in the jail was told by many inmates on occasions that they had stomach upsets and other gastrointestinal problems that they believe related to the food.

This worker sampled 3 meals. One meal was cold; the second had a layer of water on top of the food which made it inedible; and the third meal was ingested and the worker suffered from a bout of stomach upset and diarrhea.

• Complaints were received about meals not containing fresh vegetables.

• Complaints received by inmates who required special diets relating to their physical status: i.e. diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease etc.

One complaint specifically addressed an inmate who was recommended by the Medical Officer to have a low fat diet in keeping with the Heart Foundation, but has never received same. The worker in the jail confirmed that either Justice or Health only had a budget allocation to allow 30 special diets within the prison.

After 30 special diets had been dispensed then no more would be allocated, no matter the health concern.

• One complaint from an inmate in the prison hospital and a worker who had seen prison officers take a bite out of sandwiches before giving them to the inmate.

• 3 complaints about officers placing their fingers in the foods of inmates whilst they are eating.

• Since approximately April of 2004 the only option for lunch 5 days a week was sandwiches. The inmates complained of sandwich-filling combinations, stale bread, and were only ever supplied with white bread and did not have the option of wholemeal or wholegrain breads. Combinations of foods complained about were capsicum and peanut butter. Lettuce, jam and onion.

• Inmate complains that the bread served to inmates in Division 7 is often mouldy and stale.

• Complaints about the lack of skills and training of the inmates working in the kitchen and preparing the meals. No inmates have been trained in food handling.

• The worker in the prison said that a dietician did come into the prison to prepare menus for a variety of special needs diets but the inmates in the kitchen admitted that they did not really take any notice of it.

• The prison worker noted that there was small piles of dirt on the floor, no inmates were wearing gloves and 2 in particular had dirty hands and nails, no hats were worn in the kitchen area either.

• The toilet is positioned next to the area where meat is chopped.

• Complaints from inmates related to being fed in their cells. When there are 2 inmates in a cell one inmate eats at the very small desk provided in the cell and the other inmate has to balance the food on their lap or sit on the lower bunk bed.

• Prison worker wrote concerned about ingestion of food in cells. This person reports at least 4 inmates that they are aware of whose cells are in such a filthy state that there would be no clean area for them to ingest their food. One inmate in particular (with a psychiatric problem), would sit on his toilet to eat his meal.

His toilet, the floor and the outside of the toilet bowl is always smothered in faeces, and the floor of his cell is littered with cigarette butts.

• A number of complaints from inmates who had researched and found articles relating to the long term effect of ingesting food out of aluminum containers.

They do not believe that this is healthy and the research forwarded to PAR supports their complaint.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 7

Outcome: An Ombudsman’s report was tabled in August 2004. This report identified some pertinent points however, as witnessed by the number of food complaints received since August 2004 it is obvious that certain issues have not been resolved.

One of the requests from the prisoner population has been to have spot unannounced visits by the Ombudsman office to check on the food. The inmates request that the Ombudsman representative eat in the divisions with the inmates and that they eat one of the meals prepared for an inmate.

• Inmate Canteen Issues 30 complaints

The food items on the prison canteen list have been reduced. Inmates are unable to order vitamin tablets and foods such as yoghurt, eggs, tuna, protein bars, dried fruit and nuts, in order to supplement their nutrition. They are forced to choose food such as 2 minute noodles, chips, chocolate, sweet and savory biscuits (all that are high in fat and low in nutritional content).

Items on the Canteen lists in some instances are up to 200-300% more expensive than most retail outlets.

Outcome: Tuna has been added to the canteen list but other issues remain unresolved.

• Accommodation Issues 24 complaints

The accommodation issues relate to inappropriate housing of inmates who are aged, physically frail and who have ongoing mental health issues. Doubling up for long PAR documented report May 24 2005 8 periods of time in cells is also a documented concern. Lack of access to cleaning materials available to prisoners to be able to keep their cells clean.

Outcome: Unresolved

• Custodial Officer Issues 52 complaints

Complaints received from other custodial officers, inmates/detainees, relatives and friends.

These generally relate to general attitude and poor levels of communication when dealing with issues, especially with relatives and friends of the prison.

Inconsistency of information gained from Custodial Officers, inappropriate comments made to female visitors to the prison, reporting bullying and harassment complaints.

More disturbing complaints relate to a female custodial officer and her conduct towards inmates, which has been reported as punitive and provoking. Complaints relating to custodial officers who continuously threaten and abuse.

Outcome: Unresolved

• Physical Health Issues 81 complaints

These complaints have been generated by inmates and family and friends.

Not getting in to see the doctor when unwell; not getting medication that the doctor has prescribed until 7 days after the consultation; frequent gastrointestinal problems that go unmonitored; not having bloods monitored on a regular basis.

Inmates housed in the prison with serious physical health issues not being seen automatically. Custodial officers not notifying health staff upon request of inmates relating to physical complaints.

Only one set of hair clippers are used for hair throughout Risdon. There is no disinfectant provided to clean the clippers between hair cuts. Some inmates have large scabs on their heads which bleed onto the clippers. Inmates and relatives voice concern regarding the transmission of Hepatitis C.

Inmate who is on the methadone program suffering from diarrhea and vomiting was confined to cell and given Mylanta but he was told he could not receive his methadone unless he was able to leave his cell. He was too sick to leave his cell and went without his medication for several days.

Outcome: Unresolved

• Mental Health Issues 30 complaints

PAR documented report May 24 2005 9

Main complaints have been received from family and friends and they range from poor housing of inmates with long term mental health complaints. No staff education programs in place to assist with gaining of knowledge, insight or successful treatment of mental conditions.

Obstruction by Custodial Officers when relatives enquire about the condition of the person in jail. No information sharing despite release of information being provided. Inconsistent feedback in relation to processes in place to care for mental health complaints.

Health staff not responding to relatives concerns.

Outcome: Unresolved

• Information access/sharing issues 33 complaints

Most of these complaints relate to information sharing to relatives of friends of inmates/detainees relating to their management and handling issues. Other complaints were from PAR with concerns over information access to the Directors Standing Orders and seeking clarification relating to issues raised with them.

Outcome: Unresolved


Of the 651 issues referred to PAR for their attention 534 of these are significant and alarming. They remain unresolved. It seems little wonder that the prison has ongoing incidences with inmate perpetrated violence.

Currently there is no provision made for inmates to have their voice heard in relation to complaints or grievances of any sort.

Previously, an inmate communication and grievance system existed in the form of regular yard representative meetings.

These meetings were held on a regular basis and yard representatives were elected by inmates from each division. Recently, PAR suggested that this system be reinstated (at meeting on 31 March 2005) as a means to settle down prison population tensions by providing a channel for communication between inmates and prison management.

An email dated (5 April 2005) from the Attorney’s department stated the prison manager said no formal process existed and if and when an issue arose inmates would nominate a yard representative. Further to this an email received 12 April stated that the present system would remain. This is an ad hoc solution that does nothing to address the underlying issue of inmate’s complaints and issues not being heard nor addressed.

PAR has drawn the Attorney General’s department’s attention to this situation and on numerous occasions has suggested that: not addressing or setting up a legitimate system for complaints and grievances is reinforcing and contributing to an unsettled and tension- filled prison. An inmate communication and grievance procedure must be implemented.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 10

PAR would like it noted that they have not received any complaints from minimum security Hayes prison farm or the Women’s prison about the food they are currently consuming. This is believed to be because neither facility’s has switched to the cook-chill system.

However, PAR has received correspondence outlining concerns over the proposed new cook-chill system for Hayes and Women’s facilities. If the food complaints are not addressed then it is highly probable that PAR will begin to receive more food complaints once Hayes and the women’s prison switch to the new system.

In theunfortunate event these issues are not addressed the Attorney’s department would be wise to consider the potential for a further 120 disgruntled, hungry and frustrated inmates.

Prison Action and Reform has worked tirelessly to address complaints as they are referred to the organization. The people working for PAR are committed to ensuring that natural justice and human rights of prisoners/detainees are upheld.

The Attorney General in her statement to the media insinuated that the issues that PAR was dealing with were almost fictitious.

PAR maintains full documentation of all complaints received and invites the Attorney General to meet with the organization to discuss the same.

It needs to be noted that PAR members have never met with the Attorney General. Prison Action and Reform are also troubled that assistance in the Justice Department has been withdrawn. This leaves the group with no legitimate means to adequately clarify any issues bought to light. Without access to employees in the Justice Department PAR is disabled in their role. After careful consideration and discussion PAR has decided to directly forward all complaints to the Attorney General for her attention.

All people referring will be advised of this and all measures to protect their confidentiality will be ensured prior to the referral being handed to the Attorney General until such time a satisfactory resolution of this current situation is reached.

PAR will be in constant contact with the referral sources throughout this process and if the issues forwarded are not investigated and resolved then PAR will forward all documentation to the media.

Aside from the issues raised PAR demand that the Attorney General pay particular attention to the statistics provided above and to acknowledge the seriousness of the complaints.

On October 1, 2004 the Attorney General’s department requested PAR cease going to the media and instead rebuild the communication channels between the two groups. PAR stated that communication had deteriorated since the previous Secretary of the department had left.

The Attorney General’s department stated they held genuine concerns for the way some areas in the present prison system was operating and wanted to constructively change the bullying culture.

The Attorney General’s Department said that it would set up a proper complaints process for dealing with complaints and agreed that certain areas of the prison were in crisis. PAR agreed that this would be beneficial but stated that if issues remained unresolved through this procedure that they would continue to present matters to the media.

Additionally, the Attorney’s representatives PAR documented report May 24 2005 11 suggested that regular meetings be set up between representatives from the Attorney’s and Justice Department and PAR.

At this meeting, PAR raised a number of concerns. An example of these concerns are that: the number of rehabilitation programs had been dramatically decreased and underlying criminogenic issues were no longer able to be addressed hence releasing prisoners into the community with unresolved issues;

there was no Alcohol and Other Drug program despite the majority of prisoners have underlying Alcohol and Other Drug issues; there was only one Alcohol and Other Drug worker for the entire prison population; that no pre or post release support programs existed for prisoners and this significantly contributed to the already high recidivism levels in Tasmania;

the present prison philosophy supported a containment and control ideology which contributed to a punitive and violent culture for inmates; the custodial culture was a bullying ones for both workers and inmates; the system was a closed one that had not been forced to be open nor accountable despite the prison being a public institution;

that prisoners had been punished for talking to PAR; that members of PAR had been threatened and intimidated; and a person high up in the Justice department had allegedly been complaining about the dangerousness and untrustworthy nature of PAR.

The only meetings PAR has had in the last 7 months with representatives from the Justice and Attorney’s department is as follows: 1/10/04 with representatives from the Attorney’s department; 2/11/04 with the Secretary of the Justice department and representatives from the Attorney’s department; 22/02/05 with the Secretary of the department and the new Assistant Director of Prisons; 31/3/05 with two representatives from the Attorney’s department.

A complaints system was set-up and all complaints from PAR were collated at a central point and sent to the Prison Advisor. PAR set up protocols that only allowed the President and assistant to the President to contact the Attorney’s department either by email, letter or phone.

PAR has consistently received complaints regarding custodial officers and their conduct.

The Attorney’s department was aware of the nature of these complaints (because they had received many of the same complaints about the same officers). On the 14th April 2005 it was requested that PAR compile a list naming the officers and the complaints. It was suggested that this list would be used as a basis to form a management plan to manage these officers. We were invited to discuss this issue with the Assistant Director of Prisons once the list was compiled.

PAR was in the process of putting the list together when the Attorney General banned PAR from having access to the Attorney’s department.

These processes have significantly failed the PAR group and the people referring mattersto PAR.

However, PAR wishes to acknowledge the work and commitment of Prison Advisor, Virginia de Groot from the Attorney General’s Office. We thank her for her hard work and her dedication in seeking clarification and resolution from the prison on issues PAR.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 12 raised.

However, prison management failed to adequately and satisfactorily clarify the majority of issues raised. Yet despite this inadequate clarification PAR was told that prison management answered many of the issues with words to the effect “there was no problem”. On one occasion the Prison Adviser conceded it was possible that she was not being told the truth.

The Attorney General has made allegations that PAR have been “insistent on perpetuating inaccurate information about the prison service that is based on little more that half-truths and rumour”.

However, PAR’s information is consistent with that reported by both Richard Harradine (who spent prison time at Risdon Prison and reported that prisoners were caged like animals) and Greg Barnes in his column 16 May 2005 who said he had received numerous complaints from individuals about the prison system.

The Attorney General would do well to investigate her prison management information sources. It may be that she is not getting correct and/or reliable information from these sources.

PAR would like to suggest that the best interests of prison management would not be served if the Attorney were to believe the documented complaints evidence that PAR has collated.

The recent Anti-Discrimination outcome for Phillip Wilson is also further demonstration that complaints of the prison system are consistent with PAR’s claim of human rights abuses. Philip Wilson was subjected to daily abuse while on Remand and accommodated in maximum security at Risdon Prison.

Philip lodged a complaint with the Anti-discrimination office against the Director of Prisons Graeme Barber.

On the 7th April Philip's complaints were resolved at mediation with Philip receiving an undisclosed and confidential financial settlement. The above situation has significantly failed the PAR group and the people referring matters to PAR. PAR is a key stakeholder and represents the interests of a silenced and marginalised group (and their friends and families). PAR is a lobby group that has and will continue to advocate upon behalf of the Tasmanian prisoner population and their family and friends.

Additionally, PAR is committed to reforming the current prison system including bringing accountability and scrutiny to a closed institution.

In January this year a service arm of Prison Action & Reform was developed. PARISS (Prison Action Referral Information Support Services) was developed and implemented because of the limited dedicated prison and post prison support services in Tasmania.

PARISS offers a support group for those affected by imprisonment; a court liaison service; an information service in regard to the prison system; a referral service; and a prison visiting service. We are not a funded organization and exist on volunteers.

All volunteers are required to complete training before they are able to represent the organization. We have on numerous occasions requested the information relating to our service arm (including our office location and phone number) be disseminated throughout the prison system.

This has been denied. We have also requested that our support group; court liaison work; and prisoner visits be advertised in the prisoner newsletter but this has also been denied.

Further to the above, we requested the use of the public document (The Family Booklet) for dissemination at the Magistrates Courts. This booklet (which is available on the web from the Justice department’s website) contains vital and pertinent PAR documented report May 24 2005 13 information for families who have someone sentenced to prison. To date despite repeated requests for this document no answer has been given one way or the other.

3. Matters Relating to the Prison Siege

The Attorney General through her media releases and in Parliament has made certain allegations that PAR would like to answer.

Prison Action & Reform had absolutely no prior knowledge regarding the siege. Yet the Attorney has on several occasions alluded to the fact that PAR had this prior knowledge, condoned and inflamed the siege. We do not condone violence of any sort but PAR reiterates that we have on numerous occasions voiced our concern and alerted the Attorney’s department to the tension-building in the prison.

At the meeting on 1 October with representatives from the Attorney’s department PAR highlighted to the Attorney’s representatives that we had been able to quieten down two potential riots.

Additionally, we alerted the Attorney’s office (on or about the 22 December 2004) about the possibility of a picket at Risdon prison on Christmas Day. This year on the 31 March PAR discussed with the Prison Advisor, the mounting tension and the talk of riots inside the prison and our plead to the prisoners to allow us more time to work with the Attorney’s department to plead the prisoner’s case and to make changes.

On the afternoon of the siege, PAR was contacted by a family member (not associated with events) who while having a conversation with their loved one reported hearing alarms being sounded and was told that a group of Division 5 inmates had allegedly taken over reception. Several minutes after, the caller’s information was confirmed by various media organizations who had been contacted directly by those involved in the siege.

At some stage during the afternoon PAR was informed hostages had been taken. PAR attended the prison because the media had requested the President’s attendance. While at the scene, the President of PAR was the only media spokesperson for the organization, no other members of PAR were permitted to participate in an interview.

Additionally, at no time did the President or a member of PAR talk to the inmate hostage-takers or any inmate until several days after the siege.

PAR’s involvement in the weekend’s events is as follows.

Some PAR members had loved ones and clients in the prison system and all had grave concerns that they could have been involved or could have been taken as hostage. PAR at this stage did not know who was involved either as hostage-takers or as hostages.

People in attendance were shocked and disbelieving of the events that unfolded.

People gathered at the end of the prison road on East Derwent Highway. The attendance consisted of some PAR members, a former prison yard representative and now an advocate and spokesperson on behalf of prisoners, families and friends of inmates, the media and people from the community.

None of the inmates involved in the siege or their families were known clients of PAR.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 14

At no time did the PAR President mention any threats that were made against the custodial officer hostage to the media despite being interviewed over a number of hours by multiple media organizations.

As President of PAR, Caroline Dean constantly reiterated her wish for a peaceful end to the siege and repeatedly requested that prison management avoid storming the reception area.

Caroline Dean spoke at some length about why this situation may have occurred and concluded that the prison atmosphere had been building with pressure-cooker intensity for some time and this was a desperate act by desperate people.

She further added that the Attorney General’s department must take some responsibility for this occurrence because despite repeated complaints about prison conditions no complaints had been resolved nor their seriousness acknowledged. The PAR President at no stage condoned the actions of the hostage-takers.

During the entire siege PAR supported family members who were angry and highly emotional.

A lot of blame and anger was directed at the Director of Prisons, Graeme Barber.

Family members repeated that the Director’s punitive philosophy of containment and control had contributed to this situation. However, despite the heightened emotions throughout the entire siege PAR was able to keep the vigil peaceful.

At no time did any person reveal that they were aware that the siege was going to happen. In fact, to the contrary there was a lot of shock and disbelief amongst all who attended the vigil.

Throughout the night many officers left the prison including the Director, at no stage did any of the crowd say or do anything, even though the mood was very tense and angry that this siege had eventuated.

The only incidences to occur was: an officer who was leaving the prison and driving a white utility accelerated towards the crowd and slowed down, shook his fist then accelerated off again. No-one retaliated or took action of any kind.

Unknown people from the community supported the vigil by dropping off sandwiches, hot coffee and tea throughout the entire siege.

At no time did prison officials or negotiators attempt to make contact or talk to anyone who was at the vigil.

At no time did prison officials or negotiators request that PAR do anything to assist. PAR did however offer via the media to be part of the negotiations.

On the second day of the siege PAR set up a phone hotline for family members. PAR had been swamped by queries from families who were unsure what was going on and whether their family member was involved in the siege. They were reporting that the prison was refusing to give them any information at all about the siege (including whether their loved ones were involved); they were spoken to rudely and without compassion or respect; some people were hung up on; or given incorrect phone numbers to contact (eg one caller was given a number that was answered by the Justice Media Unit). PAR provided support and compassion.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 15

PAR decided to set up a hotline to support families who just wanted someone to talk to. This was promoted through media outlets. The prison was contacted and asked to give out the support hotline to any families that were in need.

The prison took the phone number down but not one family reported being given this number. The most frequent question we were asked was, “do you know who the prisoner hostages are”.

We did not. The prison failed in this instance to give vital information and support to families who had loved ones in prison. This lack of information resulted in needless family distress and distrust of the prison system.

This is a consistent occurrence within the prison system. Families are treated with distain and disrespect and as one family member put it, “like we are the criminals’.

The prison system would do well to listen to family concerns and address them seriously. PAR spent the days after the siege offering support to families of inmates involved (and not involved) in the siege. We continue to support some of those families.

It was reported that families of custodial officers were the subject of threats and abuse in the days after the siege. PAR asked for evidence of this and received none. In fact, the Justice Secretary was reported as saying these allegations had yet to be substantiated.

This is clearly a case of dissemination of incorrect information. PAR was working with some of the families of inmates involved in the siege who reported becoming the object of abuse. PAR has reported incidences of their children being taunted and bullied at school. The prison would not allow them any contact with their loved ones nor explain when they could expect contact. These people did not commit any criminal act and yet they all felt they were being punished because of family association.

The hotline number provided by the prison was in fact the general prison administration number. A number of people who called that number were spoken to in an inappropriate manner and given inconsistent information.

Families, friends and PAR were at a loss asto why prison management did not see fit to have officers with sufficient knowledge regarding the incident manage the hotline so that relatives and friends could be assured they were getting accurate and up to date information. Accurate knowledge in these sorts of traumatic events will go someway toward alleviating unnecessary distress.

PAR members were invited to attend a peaceful protest regarding the inhumane treatment and food conditions at Risdon Prison. This protest was organised by family members for Monday 9 May 2005. PAR did not organise this protest, we were invited to attend and we gladly supported and attended the peaceful protest.

The Attorney General made comments about PAR having an inflammatory role to play in regard to the comments that hostages would “cut off the officer’s fingers”. This is untrue.

The media spokesperson did not make any comments to the media in regard to this threat. The PAR spokesperson did not inform the media of this threat.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 16

We ask the Attorney to substantiate her allegations in this instance. If this allegation had any basis in truth why were members of PAR not interviewed by police? Late last week the media reported a number of inmates had been charged with regards to this matter.

This is a clear statement that yet again the Attorney General has not been supplied withthe correct information and has used this information in a slanderous and damaging manner against PAR to gain public sympathy.

4. Prison Action and Reform access to Risdon Prison

The Attorney General has also made claims that Prison Action & Reform had access to the prison at any give time.

Prison Action & Reform have never had ‘special’ or ‘privileged’ access to inside the prison to see clients. PAR members have been permitted inside the prison on two occasions. In 2002 an official visit was organized by the Secretary of the department and PAR members viewed changes to Division 7. No clients were seen at this time.

In January 2000 PAR member Vickie Douglas was permitted to view the cell where her son was found dead. She placed a flower at the site.

Verification that PAR has not attended the prison can be provided by simply looking through the “sign in” book situated at the front gate entry area. Every person who has official business in the prison is required to sign in and state the purpose of their visit.

PAR has only ever been allowed to see prisoners in non-contact box visits and this has been done as private citizens.

Several months ago PAR sought permission from Director of Prisons to enter the prison as volunteers. This would allow us to visit prisoners at the request of families, or visit prisoner clients. However, a letter from the Director of Prisons (24 February 2005) stated a formal application process is required for this to happen including admitted the signing of media, conflict of interest and confidentiality agreements. This is contrary to the Section 13 of the Corrections Act which states: the Director may, for the purposes of this Act, approve an organization which has amongst its objects the welfare and rehabilitation of prisoners.

No members of PAR have yellow prison passes that allow ‘special access’ and contrary to the Attorney General’s comments PAR has never been able to come and go as they wish. The process for any organization gaining prison entry on a regular basis is that they must have either a regular gate pass (that can run for up to three months) or a yellow pass enabling entry to the prison on a regular and ongoing basis. This pass is issued every 12 months.

In both these situations this allows individuals and organizations to see inmate clients within the prison. PAR has never had either a gate pass or a yellow pass.

The only person who has had an ongoing yellow pass has been Caroline Dean in her professional role as volunteer tutor to a tertiary student. Her role as tutor is completely independent of her role in Prison Action & Reform. Caroline Dean has been a tutor for the last three years to students who are incarcerated. For reasons unknown the Attorney is mixing up these roles and creating confusion. Caroline Dean attempted to visit two inmates as a private citizen on Monday 15 May at approximately 2.30pm. She informed front gate custodial staff that she was here as a private citizen to see two inmates. She was informed by a staff member that the Director of Prisons had barred her entry to the prison even as a private citizen. A letter from Caroline Dean’s lawyer was sent to the Director of Prisons on Monday afternoon.

The letter requested information about why Caroline Dean was refused entry.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 17

The Director’s response to this request is confused, unclear and contains some obvious inaccuracies including that Caroline Dean was refused entry on Monday 16 May because her yellow pass had expired. Caroline Dean was not visiting in her tutor role.

She was aware her pass had expired. She was visiting prisoners as a private citizen and entry was clearly refused on this basis. The Director makes mention that Caroline Dean’s visiting status is currently under review. Caroline Dean has not previously been advised of this review process.

On Tuesday 16 May, Caroline Dean was informed by Offender Services management that she had been banned for the foreseeable future. Caroline Dean asked the reason for this and she was told that she was banned because she had a conflict of interest between her PAR and tutor role.

Caroline Dean has never visited an inmate inside the prison as a PAR member so it is difficult to see how the Director can substantiate this allegation.

In fact, Caroline Dean has only ever visited inmates during non-contact visits on two occasions and these have been as a private individual and not as a member of PAR. PAR does have regular phone and email contact with the Offender Services Family Liaison worker but Caroline Dean does not need to enter the prison to make these referrals.

If prison management deemed Caroline Dean to have a conflict of interest why has it not been brought to her attention before now?

Caroline Dean requested that the ban be put in writing but this was refused. She was not told of any procedure or process that allows her to respond to the ban.

Last Wednesday 17 May, Caroline Dean lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman’s office.

The complaint relates to her treatment by the prison system since she left the employment of the Justice department at the end on February 2004. Since leaving the prison she has visited the prison most weeks in her capacity as volunteer tutor.

Wednesday 17 May, the Attorney General issued a media release stating that PAR members had been banned from the prison. However, it is becoming clear that what this ban actually means needs clarification. The Attorney has said PAR members can visit prisoners as private citizens in non-contact box visits but this has not allowed.

Ultimately the only people to be affected by this decision to ban PAR are the prisoners.

Caroline Dean’s prisoner student is without a tutor and the necessary support that is vital for him to carry out his studies, and this is in complete opposition to the guiding principles of the Corrections Act and the Corrections department’s mission statement.

Other prisoners who benefit from PAR members visiting as private individuals are without this vital support. Many of these people do not have any other family or friends to visit them. This is yet again a violation against natural justice and human rights.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 18

PAR seeks clarification of this ban. It asks that the Attorney clearly defines who is banned, from where, and for how long.

Despite the decision to ban PAR as an organization, it was stated by the Attorney General that members would still be able to visit family and friends incarcerated at Risdon Prison as private citizens.

However, this has not been the case for the President of PAR Caroline Dean and member Jayne Murphy. As mentioned, Caroline Dean was informed by the front gate custodial officers that they couldn’t allow her to visit prisoners as a private citizen because she had been banned.

Jayne Murphy was also refused a contact visit as a private citizen to the Women’ prison on Sunday 29 May. She sought clarification and was informed by the Manager of the Women’s prison that an internal memo via email from the Assistant Director of Prisons stated that all PAR members were totally banned from all Tasmanian prison facilities.

This contradicts the Attorney’s statement to Parliament (as reported in Hansard 19 May) who clearly stated that PAR members had the right to visit the same as any other private citizen. This is discriminatory and forms part of the general ongoing victimization of PAR members and the tutor Caroline Dean.

The “Arunta” phone system is the prison phone system that allows inmates to make phone calls. They are charged at normal rates for local and STD calls. It has been the case in the past that members of PAR have had their names on the inmates Arunta accounts.

This means that prisoners are able to ring a PAR member as a friend and private citizen. Similar to the visits to the prison members of PAR offers support and friendship to a number of inmates. In the last week PAR members have had their names and phone numbers removed from the Arunta phone system. A letter from the Director of Prisons dated 25 May denied PAR member’s access to prisoners via the prison phone system. In this instance, prisoners who ring PAR members do so in a private capacity.

Not one of these prisoners are clients of PAR.

Additionally other professional organizations are able to have their numbers placed on the Arunta phone system and PAR feels that prison management is making these decisions based on prejudice. Despite repeated requests the Director of Prisons has never explained why PAR cannot be placed on an inmate’s phone list.

5. Official Visitors

Prison Action & Reform questions the present Official Visitors scheme within the Tasmanian prison system. The Official Visitors are people who are independent of the prison system and who address inmates concerns and complaints related to the prison system.

It concerns PAR that despite Official Visitors writing reports with recommendations that the prison system is not obliged to implement or take notice of these recommendations. We also believe that the Corrections Act does not allow for independence because the Official Visitors is part of the Ombudsman’s office which reports directly to the Attorney General. Moreover, PAR has received complaints from inmates and workers that question the independence of the Official Visitors scheme.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 19

A complaint alleged that an Official Visitor was asked by a custodial staff at Risdon Prison to breach inmate complaint confidentiality and to inform this custodial staff member of the exact nature of the complaint.

Official Visitors in areas such as health are independent and report to another independent body (i.e. the Tribunal who then makes recommendations based on the information received). PAR also believes that the sheer number of issues and complaints received is reflective of the Official Visitors complaints/issues not being dealt with effectively.

The PAR manager requested a copy of the Official Visitors annual report from the Ombudsman’s office on the 24 May 2005. She was informed than an annual report has not been produced since 2002.

According to the Ombudsman’s office each Official Visitor write individual reports but an annual report based on the individual reports is not produced. An annual report is an overview report for the year, if this report is not produced how is it possible for the Attorney General to acquaint herself with Prison Service issues, complaints and patterns arising from those issues. It would seem that the Attorney cannot be as fully informed as she leads the public to believe.

6. Independent Review of Prison Procedures

PAR is astounded and deeply concerned that the Attorney General recently announced a retired Assistant Police Commissioner to “independently” review events contributing to the hostage incident at Risdon Prison. As part of the review Luppo Prins is to examine Prison Service security policies and protocols at Risdon Prison. PAR does not think it is appropriate for a former police officer to be involved in this review and makes the following points.

• What role has the nominated investigator played in previous police investigations involving the alleged perpetrators of the siege?

• PAR believes there is significant links between senior prison management and the investigator.

• The recent comments by both the Attorney General and the Director of Prisons of PAR’s alleged involvement in the siege have already compromised and prejudiced any kind of independent investigation.

• The terms of reference for the investigation have not been made public and PAR is concerned these terms will be about apportioning blame rather than understanding the underlying issues leading up to the siege and the reason for the siege.

Moreover, PAR is disturbed that the investigation had not yet begun and the Attorney General is attacking PAR for its alleged involvement in the siege and pre-empting the findings of the investigation by banning PAR from the prison and denying access to the Attorney General’s Department.

PAR is a community organization dedicated to lobbying, advocating and supporting prisoners and has a democratic right to oppose the opinions of the dominant political ideology. The sign of a strong democratic system is in the ability of those who oppose the dominant ideology to voice their opinions without fear of reprisals.

PAR has not been afforded this opportunity.

PAR documented report May 24 2005 20

At no stage has the Attorney General attempted to contact PAR regarding her concerns. Instead the Attorney has used false and damming information to wrongly portray an organization (which was formed in response to five deaths in custody) and whose work is to reform an appalling prison system and give a voice to an otherwise silenced group.

Independent reviews of our health systems have seen a team of reviewers put in place.

In many cases the reviewers are from interstate and independent.

PAR thinks it is more appropriate for an independent judicial officer from interstate to be appointed to oversee and conduct the investigation into the events contributing to the siege.

The Attorney General made comment to the media regarding the close relationship and support that had been fostered between her department and PAR. PAR disputes this close relationship. At no time has the Attorney General met with PAR. Over the last year there have been 4 general meetings and 1 infrastructure meeting between PAR and the Attorney General’s office.

The number of meetings does not support the Attorney’s claim in this instance.

PAR argues the siege has been at the end of a long line of disturbing and serious incidents within the Tasmanian prison system. There have been escapes from a the minimum security prison farm, assaults on officers, serious assaults of inmates by other inmates, sexual assaults of young people inappropriately accommodated, young remandees placed with older more prison and criminally experienced sentenced inmates, poor management practices, excessive punishment regimes, custodial bullying, overcrowding, longer time in cells, limited recreation time, fewer rehabilitation programs, limited access to education, high levels of unemployment, food service, health and medical inadequacies, and excessive boredom to name a few.

Coupled with this is the situation where the Director of Prisons and the Attorney General refuse to listen to inmates complaints and take notice of the above factors. In effect, the Attorney and the Director are punishing anyone who has become a whistleblower.

Punishing whistleblowers particularly when there is overwhelming evidence to support their claims essentially protects and condones the present prison culture.

Statements that the new prisons ‘will fix everything’ are unconstructive and lead to a false perception that the problems are merely structural. There has been little mention of how the Justice Department and the Attorney General are going to address the systemic and endemic problems that have plagued the Tasmanian prison system for years.

The present situation of housing, handling and feeding inmates like cattle and keeping them caged is not a solution to the constant and ongoing human rights violations that are occurring on a daily basis within the Tasmanian prison system.

7. Documentation evidence

PAR documented report May 24 2005 21

Prison Action & Reform have documentation to support the issues raised in this letter and again challenge the Attorney General to validate her statements in the same manner.

We demand to have communication channels re-opened and to be able to operate as we have done so in the past.

Prison Action & Reform also demand a public apology by the Attorney General to Prison Action & Reform as a group and to individuals for her misleading, ill informed information and allegations.

8. Founders of Prison Action & Reform

.Vickie Douglas, Rose Macaulay and Judith Santos were three of the founding members of Prison Action & Reform after the death of their loved ones. They became strong and dedicated advocates of prison reform after the prison system failed in their duty of care to their loved ones. Allegations made by the Attorney General about Prison Action & Reform have deeply offended and caused them further and unnecessary distress.

Yours sincerely
Caroline Dean Vickie Douglas Lorette Langford
President Assistant to the President Manager

Level 2, 164 Murray Street, Hobart, 7001.
Ph – 62 342803
24th May 2005


Tasmanian prison support visit
Prisoners from Risdon Prison and Prison Action & Reform (PAR) in Tasmania have requested support from the Australian Prisoners Union and Justice Action following the siege in the prison ending on May 9.

Prison Action & Reform challenge the Attorney General
Members of Prison Action & Reform are furious with the latest lies from the Attorney General -- Judy Jackson, and demand that she produce evidence to support her ludicrous claims.

Tasmania PAR banned from Risdon
Since then, she and other PAR volunteers, have brought to the public's attention scandalous and inhumane events that have occurred in the prison - which Judy Jackson would have otherwise covered up.

Chronology of a Tasmanian Prison System: A Documented Report
We believe that the people of Tasmania - both victims of crime and the general public - have the right to know that the Tasmania Prison Service is delivering a humane and just system of containment that is conducive to the reintegration of inmates back into Tasmanian society.

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Apparently one prisoner had been mistreated and held in isolation in an SHU (Segregation Housing Unit) [Solitary Confinement] because, he'd had and altercation with a screw. SHUs cause severe mental harm - regarded as torture - and are a cruel, inhumane and degrading way to keep prisoners.

No Safe Place
In a brief four month span from August 1999, five men died in Tasmania's Risdon prison. Their deaths have put the state's corrections system in the dock and led to the planned demolition of a jail which even the State's Attorney-General now calls an "appalling facility".

Association for the Prevention of Torture
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Corrected or Corrupted
A psychiatrist from the prison Mental Health Team attached to Queensland Health made the comment that 25 per cent of inmates suffer from a diagnosed mental illness.

ICOPA XI International Conference on Penal Abolition
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Ex-Prisoner Locked Out of Prison
The NSW Department of Corrective Services (DCS) has revealed a policy which bans ex-prisoners from entering prisons.

Justice Action: Access to our community
NSW: Justice Action went to the NSW Supreme Court before the last Federal election on the constitutional right for prisoners to receive information for their vote. The government avoided the hearing by bringing prisoners' mobile polling booths forward. We pursued it after the election. This is the report.