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Media Releases

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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ACT Prisoners’ Voice on Needle Exchange

Media Release Tuesday October 11, 2011

ACT Prisoners’ Voice on Needle Exchange (read as pdf)

“The representation of ACT prisoners' views through an ex-prisoner who was excluded as a prisoner in a protected area is like a scab talking for a union – ridiculous! He goes on to exonerate prison officers from trafficking and calls for more to be employed. It only gets less credible,” says Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

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MENTAL ILLNESS FESTERING IN PRISONS

MENTAL ILLNESS FESTERING IN PRISONS
Media release July 30, 2011

"Justice Action applauds Richard Ackland’s article “Modern prescription for mental illness: go directly to jail” (SMH 29/07/11) for highlighting the shortcomings in the treatment of the mentally ill. The current ‘tactic’ of isolation and exclusion in prisons and institutions does not deal with the systemic issues of mental health in society. The government continues to throw money at the ‘problem’, yet consistently misses. This is the Keller model of building security hospitals" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

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Archived Media Releases

O'Farrell Government Squibs Prison Challenge

Media release: April 7, 2011

“O’Farrell’s new Attorney General Greg Smith who talked tough on changing the penal culture and recidivism, has collapsed at the first hurdle – dismissing the head of his new Department” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.  

“Greg Smith promised in 2009 that he would remove former prison officer Commissioner Woodham but now passively says: ‘I may have wondered out aloud whether he would fit in with the changes I would like to see’. That is the statement of a weak ineffectual Minister capable only of threatening children with prison for graffiti, as he did on the same day” said Mr Collins.

“Woodham is both a symbol and a cause of everything that is wrong with the hopeless and destructive prisons system. His failures include the:

  • Rise in recidivism and empire building during his term as Commissioner for Corrective Services
  • Deplorable prison security admitted by Woodham in an ICAC investigation last year
  • Failure to control his staff and calling on multinational private companies to help him – against total public opposition
  • Repeated allegations of corruption and thuggery going back to the 1970’s – Bob Carr said he should be stood down in 1993”


“The election policies of Smith and the Liberal/National Coalition focussed on rehabilitation and addressing the causes of crime as well as reserving jail for violent offenders. If Smith was honest in his stated intention he needs new people with resolve and new sharp tools to drive change. He must discard deadwood whilst he has the opportunity and expectation. We demand that our tax money of $75,000 a prisoner a year improves community safety rather than causes more crime” said Mr Collins.

For comment:  Brett Collins 0438 705003

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