Wednesday, May 18, 2005


The pre-requisite to visit the HRMU is a security check that can take up to six months. Complaint to the NSW Ombudsman 2004.


Well, I made it to Goulburn on Saturday for my 9.30am visit. Didn't ride the bike as it looked like heavy rain when I set out.

First of all I parked the car and went to the little 'sentry box' and handed over my driver's licence, locked my car keys and ring in a locker in there (a new procedure) and got to take that key with me through the door of the HRMU.

Got inside, filled out the form, they looked on their computer and looked very confused.

Had to put my thumb on the fingerprint-reading machine, which is a little box with a red light. Nasty big-brother stuff, don't like it at all. However protesting would be futile and only lead to being banned, so like a good little sheepie, I do as I was told.

I was very nervous at this point, the computer did not seem to like my thumb print. They said "Are you sure you've been here before? How long ago? Which thumb did you use?" I was thinking 'Bugger, my thumb is wrong and they're not going to let me in.' It's all part of the torture process and an attempt to make you never want to go there again.

However I eventually got past the first checkpoint and got to stand in a glassed-in area, a tiny room like a phone box, where they check if you are carrying any nail clippers and stuff. The beeper went mad so I gave them my locker key. The beeper still didn't like me so they said I must have metal in my shoes. In my shoes? I didn't think they made shoes with metal! But sure enough, when the shoes went through the airport-style scanner thingie, there was a strip of metal in each shoe like a chassis! Well, they did cost me $400, so now I know why, when you pay that much you get metal reinforcements.

So into the next room. They checked my driver's licence again and unbelievably, my thumb print again, which seemed to take ages. Then they told me to lock my driver's licence and first locker key in another locker and I would be allowed to take that key with me. A sign warned, "This is the last opportunity to use the toilets. There are no toilets in the visiting area."

I must admit the toilets were very clean and the soap was pretty good quality too. However all the time I could hear the high-pitched buzz of electronic stuff and I found it very irritating - it was like having tinnitis.

There were about 10 other people going through this, all middle eastern. I was thinking 'This looks like a political prison! What have they got in here, prisoners of war or something?' It just seemed strange there were no other 'Australians' around.

Last time I had chatted to a family this lot did not want to talk, they looked very miserable indeed. When a prison officer said to a lady wearing the full shalwar kameez "Nice day outside, isn't it" she did not reply.

In none of these rooms - which are exactly like prison cells to me - were there any magazines to pass the time - or any confectionary machines, bubble gum dispensers, or TVs. It is so obvious they want to punish you for daring to turn up at all.

You wouldn't want to have claustrophobia, I can tell you, and I would not have got through this without having taken a Valium before I went in. So there I am in the next section sitting down waiting and in each section you wait at least 20 minutes and the walls start to close in on you and you wonder if there's enough oxygen to keep you going. Unlike last time, I did not feel out of breath, just scared it might happen again, and terrified there were no open windows.

After a long time, I am moved through yet another locked door to a smaller room. There I sit and sit until finally someone comes to take about six of us to the visiting area. Through another locked door and into a huge empty aircraft-hanger thing - I forgot, every time you change rooms they do the thumb thing again. And stare at the computer screen for ages looking like your thumb is the most dangerous thing they've ever come across. Out of the aircraft-hanger - more locks - and into the open, huge walls on every side, only thing you can see is the sky; a short walk to yet another door, then into another room where they check my troublesome thumb YET AGAIN. So I say to them "Is this in case I've changed my thumb print since you last did this?" No reply of course.

More sitting and waiting. There IS a toilet here. They said there wasn't. I like to know where all the toilets are.

Through the glass barriers I could see my friend already in the visiting area pacing up and down. It was like watching a lion pacing up and down its cage. I felt really sorry for him that he didn't feel he could just sit and wait. I said to the person behind the glass "Is there any chance of getting a chair with a back on it?" She replied "No, absolutely not."

I know that my other friend doesn't get a proper chair after she supplied a letter from her specialist. Finally they let me go through. I don't know whether you are allowed to touch the prisoner but I gave him two big hugs, one from me, and one from Brett and all of youse. I said to him "Brett says there's a lot of love and pride for you out there and don't give up." Then he made me a cup of tea but there was no 'real' sugar, only that poisonous artificial stuff, so I had to have my tea without sugar. I get very paranoid in there. I even imagined they might have put something nasty in those little pink packets of alleged sweetener. My friend has to sit on the white stool, the visitor on one of the green stools. They are cold, hard metal. I said, "Where's the chocolate biscuits?" Not a chance of that! My friend showed me where the CCTV camera is on the wall. I hadn't noticed it last time. Maybe they had not yet installed it. So they are recording everything that happens, and no doubt what is said, as well.

Twenty minutes of sitting, then the whole process reverses with all the thumb-checking and sitting in tiny cells waiting and waiting to be moved on to the next area. The silence in there is quite scary too, not a single outside sound penetrates the place, and always that high-pitched electronic buzz. Finally, at around midday, out into the open air again, my No. 2 locker key in hand, back to the sentry box, retrieve my car keys and ring and back to the car - what a relief to be out of that evil place. I remember now how the first prison officer said, "Enjoy your visit." Ha, as if you could. When I got home I felt that I had to have a shower and wash all my clothes to get rid of the nasty feeling, and then I had to go for a long bike ride before I could feel completely free again, because when you go in there as a visitor, you come out feeling that you have been a prisoner.

By Justice Action 18 May 05


Association for the Prevention of Torture
The Optional Protocol requires 20 ratifications to enter into force. All States Parties to the UN Convention against Torture should seriously consider ratifying the OPCAT as soon as possible. National Institutions and others promoting the human rights of people deprived of their liberty need to be informed of their potential role as national preventive mechanisms under the OPCAT.

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
We are excited to announce that ICOPA X1, the eleventh International Conference on Penal Abolition will happen in Tasmania, Australia from February 9 - 11,2006. Please pass this onto all networks.

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.

14,500 children in NSW go to bed each night with a parent in prison!

In memory of the late Bob Jewson
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.

High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) INSPECTION
The Special Care Unit (SCU) at Long Bay Correctional Centre was inspired by Barlinnie. The SCU was opened in 1981 to replace the Observation Unit, which was strongly criticised by the Nagle Report. The SCU was closed in 1997 because of lack of record-keeping which could give a measure of effectiveness. The SCU was replaced by the Four-Stage Violence Prevention Program, which is housed within the Metropolitan Special Programs Centre (MSPC).

Mental Health Tribunal recommendations on forensic inmates
Below is the answer we have received from the Minister for Health regarding prisoners recommended for parole or release by the Mental Health Tribunal FYI.

Isolation, psychiatric treatment and prisoner' control
The 2003 NSW Corrections Health Service (now Justice Health) Report on Mental Illness Among NSW Prisoners states that the 12 month prevalence of any psychiatric disorder in prison is 74%, compared to 22% in the general community, and while this includes substance disorder the high rate cannot be attributed to that alone.

Australian Prisoners in Solitary Confinement:

The prison system requires assiduous oversight
As NSW Attorney General Bob Debus noted in 1996: "The kinds of complaints which occur in the system may seem trivial to outsiders but in the superheated world of the prison, such issues can produce explosive results."

Crime and Punishment
Mark Findlay argues that the present psychological approach to prison programs is increasing the likelihood of re-offending and the threat to community safety.

Goulburn Jail breaches UN standards
NSW: Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has called on Justice Minister John Hatzistergos to bring Goulburn Jail's Maximum Security Wing into line with United Nations standards, after a prison inmate's covert survey of his fellow inmates revealed problems with rehabilitation programs and basic amenities.

Where the Norm is Not the Norm: HARM-U
In the absence of public policy, this paper is an attempt to shine a light through the rhetoric and test for coherency in the policy and function of NSW’s only supermax prison, the High Risk Management Unit. Its present use will be compared with the ‘vision’ flogged by the Premier and the Department of Corrective Services (the Department) at its inception in 2001.

Justice Denied In NSW Corrective Services
There used to be a (VJ) or Visiting Justice who would go into the prison and judge any claim or accusation that was made by any prisoner or prison guard. If it were found that a prisoner had offended then punishment was metered out.

Prisoner Abuse Not Just in Iraq
The shocking revelations of abuse of prisoners by US prison guards in Iraq have been denounced by politicians around the world, including our own Prime Minister.

NSW Prisoners' linked to Osama Bin Laden: Ten News
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Conditions in the HRMU
Justice Action is trying to obtain documents on behalf of prisoners held in the Goulburn High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) from the Federal Attorney General's Department, Corrective Services Minister's Conference regarding the process described below, in which the Standard Guidelines for Corrections in Australia were adopted. This documentation will help explain the justification for the conditions in the HRMU.

We the prisoners at the High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn Correctional Centre would like to ask you for help in receiving equal treatment and opportunities as other prisoners throughout the system. As we are told that we are not in a segregation unit but we are treated as though we are in one.

On the treatment of prisoners at the NSW HRMU
Prisoners sister's letter from her brother: Following our phone conversation some weeks ago I would like to set out a few points on the treatment of prisoners in the High Risk Management Unit at Goulburn (Super Max) (Guantanamo Bay).

Escape proof but not so the prisoners mind
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Watchdogs slaughtered in NSW
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High Risk Management Unit (HRMU) INSPECTION
The Special Care Unit (SCU) at Long Bay Correctional Centre was inspired by Barlinnie. The SCU was opened in 1981 to replace the Observation Unit, which was strongly criticised by the Nagle Report. The SCU was closed in 1997 because of lack of record-keeping which could give a measure of effectiveness.

Carr's Castle the real story H.R.M.U.The High Risk Management Unit Goulburn Correctional Centre. A prisoner writes, " I was unsuccessful in my letters to Dr Matthews CEO of the Corrections Health Service on my problem regarding air - claustrophobic effect the cells have on me. Just recently the management decided my injuries are not seriously affecting me so no further discussions are necessary.