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Media Releases

Death in Custody Action Plan: Ministerial Callous Indifference

 

“Prisoners join prison officers and the Opposition spokesperson for Justice, Paul Lynch, in calling for a Public Inquiry into the recent sequence of deaths. We now launch the Tracy Brannigan Action Plan,” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

 

“The Minister for Justice, Greg Smith, and Justice Health CEO, Julie Babineau have ignored the Action Plan, designed to prevent such deaths. If this Action Plan had been implemented and lessons in the Brannigan case acknowledged, the Silverwater murder-suicide deaths, a mere month later, would not have occurred,” said Mr. Collins.

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Mental Tribunal Permits Torture

Media Release on Monday, 17 September 2012:

"In a shocking revelation at a Mental Health Review Tribunal hearing last Thursday, a Justice Health psychiatrist admitted under cross examination that a prisoner is being forcibly medicated because he is “annoying” and may provoke other prisoners to attack him.  The doctor argued that by putting himself in danger he could be defined as a mentally ill person. Our lawyer demanded that he be left alone and treated as a non-violent elderly person entitled to dignity and humanity, and that he gets the 'care‘ as the Act directs” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

 

"The Tribunal refused to allow us to give evidence or listen to the proceedings by phone although the law requires the hearings to be public. As his only community support, the prisoner named us as his primary carer, having mentored him for ten years. We are in daily contact with him and have reconnected him with his family. The man said yesterday: 'I'm not the only one they're doing this to. Doctors used to help you if you asked them, but now I fear them more than the guards.' Under the Act, he cannot use his own name to protest about his treatment." said Mr Collins.

 

"This elderly man's treatment by Justice Health and Corrective Services undoubtedly amounts to torture. For 15 of his 20 years in jail, the prisoner has been held in effective solitary confinement in super maximum security despite his non-violent prison history. He is moved from cell to cell every four weeks, which denies him the stability of a home. When out of his unit, he is put in leg irons and handcuffs. He is assaulted and his possessions smashed while guards watch. He is told he is mentally ill and forcibly medicated despite his requests that he be left in peace, have a job and mix with others" said Mr Collins. 

 

"In a Justice Health Report to the Tribunal, factual errors show their lack of care. They have no idea who is or isn’t contacting him. They didn't disclose to him their concerns of a heart condition as a side effect of their medication, and censured him as demanding when he asked for a toothbrush to clean his teeth. In the past month, even with our intervention, he has only been allowed to brush his teeth 8 times. Unbelievably the report claims that the man 'has no insight into his mental illness' but 'We are hoping to build a therapeutic alliance with him and increase his antipsychotic medication if needed'. He is locked for 23 hours a day in a bare cell. ” said Mr Collins.

"The Minister for Justice Greg Smith and current Commissioner Peter Severin haven’t intervened despite receiving full information, and all other agencies with oversight responsibilities accept this treatment as normal. The prisoner has requested that Justice Action help him appeal to the Supreme Court. We have undertaken to stand beside him, holding a line for our community. We have prepared a case study and our lawyer tendered it to the Tribunal" said Mr Collins.

 

Woodham to Severin Media Pickup: Rights group wants prisons boss enquiry

The Australian and SMH are two of several news outlets who have picked up on our latest media release 'Woodham to Severin: A Culture Change in NSW Prisons?'. It argued that the promised ‘cultural changes’ in the failed NSW prison system touted by Attorney General Greg Smith are instead a consolidation of old behaviour and an expression of political duplicity by Smith. Additionally there has been followthrough on the exposed South Australian prison brutality.

Check out the news articles from the links below:
Sydney Morning Herald: http://tinyurl.com/cpe2ldq

Woodham to Severin

 Media release: August 1, 2012
 
Woodham to Severin – A Culture Change in NSW Prisons?
 
“The promised ‘cultural changes’ in the failed NSW prison system touted by Attorney General Greg Smith are instead a consolidation of old behaviour and an expression of political duplicity by Smith” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins launching today an analysis of the changes. (download)
 

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Victory for mental patients' education

Media release Tuesday February 21, 2012

Victory for mental patients' education

"In the Administrative Decisions Tribunal yesterday morning, the Health Department's barrister Kristina Stern SC offered a settlement at the start of a projected four day hearing. The settlement will allow forensic patient Saeed Dezfouli to study law whilst he is in the Forensic Hospital and clinches the right to education for patients. This ends a four year battle" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

Saeed made a statement  to his support team:

'Thanks and I love you all. Finally I have the opportunity to use my time and energy constructively. I feel transformed - like a student now, not a person of lower status than a prisoner'. 

"The settlement orders made by the Tribunal are that Saeed be assessed for suitability for his proposed distance learning course by an Education Officer within the next 21 days. He will pay fees as do other tertiary students, but won't have access to the internet. His computer donated by students of the University of NSW has been waiting for him for two years" said Mr Collins.

"According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights article 26 ‘Everyone has the right to education.’ This was significantly recognised yesterday in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal in the case won by forensic patient Saeed Dezfouli. After years of requesting access to education, Saeed was finally taken seriously and given the right to study for the law degree he always wanted." said Mr Collins.

For comments: Brett Collins 0438 705003

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Court challenge - mental patients' education rights

Media release February 20, 2012  

Court challenge - mental patients' education rights 

"Today Barrister Robert White will be arguing for the right of mental health patients to have equal access to education as have prisoners" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

The four day hearing will begin today in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal, Level 10, John Maddison Tower, 86 Goulburn St, Sydney. Room 10.2 at 10am.

"Speaking from the Forensic Hospital at Long Bay on Friday the patient Saeed Dezfouli said: 'If I was under punishment in a prison cell I would be better treated than I am by the Health Department. They medicate me and have kept me confined for almost ten years. I get one hour a week access to a computer and there is no library. I feel like a vegetable. I wish I was in prison' " reported his primary carer Brett Collins.

"In an interview on Friday the Head of the patient's Treating Team, psychiatrist Tony Mastroianni said he wasn't aware of the patient's requests for a law course or a computer. He said that 'Saeed should ask'. That statement is totally unbelievable, as this court case has been running for four years.  It is the Health Department conceding nothing, and fighting this tooth and nail as it would mean having developing people to manage rather than patients to medicate. " said Mr Collins.

"Mr. Dezfouli is a former court interpreter and university graduate. He wants to improve his vocational prospects after leaving the hospital and to study law so he can improve his own legal situation.  Education is an internationally recognised right under the UN Covenants to which we are signatories, is important in personal identity, and should not be denied to mental health patients. It is time for the Health Department to show some respect for these citizens” says Mr Collins.

"It is grossly unfair that despite being found not guilty, these patients receive less support than prisoners. These patients are often held for indefinite periods with little opportunity for recovery in maximum security prisons. Education connects them to the outside world, provides mental stimulation and distraction, and improves their chances of rehabilitation. It should be a priority in mental health care” said Mr Collins.

Comments:  Brett Collins 0438 705003

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Prison Needles Risk is a Furphy

Media Release January 18, 2012

Prison Needles Risk is a Furphy

“Unfounded fears and misinformation have deliberately been used to prevent prisoners accessing fresh needles and syringes,” Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins said today.

Justice Action launched its paper  ‘Pricking the Bubble Around Prison NSPs’ today after an exhaustive consultation with prison stakeholders and researchers of national standing.

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NSW blocks prisoners' computers

Media Release November 1, 2011

NSW blocks prisoners' computers

"Prisons Commissioner Woodham misled the Parliamentary Estimates Hearing on Wednesday 26/10/2011 when he said 'they [prisoners] can do all their education, training and access what they need to [on computers]'. His comments are just plain wrong" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

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Saeed Dezfouli: Media Releases and Resources

Media Release Tuesday October 18, 2011
Mental Hospital blocked ‘Celebration Day’ visits

"Despite an official invitation to the Forensic Hospital Celebration Day at the start of Mental Health Month, seven visitors were refused access to the Hospital. This was despite the intervention of the head of a major consumer organisation personally to Justice Health Chief Executive Julie Babineau and a plea directly to the Clinical Director Dr Adrian Keller by the visitors. That open rejection of families and friends of patients waiting outside clearly shows the contemptuous culture of the organisation led from the top" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

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