The SA Ombudsman Wayne Lines has made a resounding criticism of the Department of Correctional Services attempts to block SA prisoners’ access to iExpress and its full internet services. For over a year DCSSA has blocked South Australian prisoners from any communication with Justice Action, declaring it to be a “media outlet” and finally just naming Justice Action specifically and banning it entirely.
All Australian states and territories and NZ except SA have accepted the role of iExpress as a platform for presenting a personal profile and using the email service.
Hundreds of people in prisons and hospitals use the email service with many sending and receiving from their families and friends regularly every week.
Some people also have their own profile on the iExpress website maintained on the basis that only positive community building statements will be accepted. No complaint has been made about any material that hasn’t been resolved.
In SA the Commissioner insisted that JA remove all SA prisoners’ profiles, and wouldn’t discuss any particular objections to any particular person’s material. JA continued to ask him for specific details so they could be addressed, but left the profiles in place as they complied with the law and community standards.
The Commissioner then declared JA to be a “media outlet” and therefore subject to special restriction. He then brought in two special “Instructions” in 2015 and 2016 that finally meant no prisoners could send or receive any letter to or from JA about any matter.
A prisoner complained to the Ombudsman and JA followed with its complaint.
The Ombudsman has legallly found that JA is a multipurpose not a media organization (cl 33), hasn’t breached the Act (cl 27), SA prisoners should be entitled to communicate with JA, and should be allowed access to the internet through JA with the email service and profile as long as it wasn’t used as a dating site. Advocacy was legitimate and reasonable. (cl 44 and 45 and 46.)
He said: “I welcome and encourage dialogue between the department and Justice Action.” (cl.37)
He also said that banning the national pre-election newspaper JUST US (the only jurisdiction not to distribute it) was punitive (cl 42 and 43). This means that the constitutional right of prisoners to be informed before the last Federal election was breached. JA has been to the Supreme Court three times on that issue.
Justice Action is asking for an urgent meeting with DCSSA to establish a fresh positive relationship for the benefit of all the community, and building respect rather than isolation, anger and resentment.