Prisoners in NSW are at risk of losing all of their personal possessions held in storage, from the time of their arrest. They were given less than two weeks notice to arrange for a person outside to collect their stored items or risk having them destroyed or sold. This situation occurred due to a change in government funding for Prisoners’ Aid Association. It maintained a storage facility for one thousand prisoners. This property includes documentation necessary for effective resettlement upon release. The right of prisoners to store their property after their arrest is not being respected, though it is clearly a legal and civil obligation. A video of interviews is here.
On March 11th, 2014, the private prison manager GEO implemented a new policy that crams three young male prisoners into two person cells the size of a bathroom for 18 hours a day. This prompted the outraged prisoners to petition for an open Inquiry into its effects, who decided it, after what research and consultation, and to stop it pending the Inquiry. They said “A loophole has been found by GEO's legal branch enabling GEO to bypass existing laws… The beds are being installed purely for profit.”
Organised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, we presented an array of issues surrounding women in prisons to the Ministry of Justice China (MOJC) and proposed changes. Eight top officials from the Ministry listened to our concerns about the rapidly expanding prison rate and our proposals about computers in cells and access to responsive health and social services, as women prisoners are the fastest growing prison demographic in Australia.
Above: Justice Action presenting to the Ministry of Justice China
Saeed’s hearing before the Tribunal is fast approaching! On Thursday 20 March the Tribunal will conduct an urgent review of Saeed’s case, that has been brought forward from the usual six-monthly timetable in light of the extraordinary circumstances that Saeed is facing. After a period of high tension between Saeed and the hospital, appeal to the NSW Supreme Court, an injunction, disrupted negotiation, forced medication and a water and hunger strike, Saeed’s case is finally coming to a head.
Community Treatment Orders (CTOs) are a frequently used tool in mental health legislation that authorise the compulsory treatment of a person without their consent. This treatment is generally reduced to nothing more than arrest and forced medication. This is counterproductive and should be stopped.
Justice Action recognises that consorting laws represent a current issue that needs to be highlighted. Recently, the Justice Action team compiled a consorting paper to provide information to the NSW Ombudsman about the impact of the consorting provisions on prisoners, ex-prisoners and the services providing these programs.
iExpress: Now launching prisoners & mental health patients online!
Justice Action is proud to introduce iExpress, the world’s first prisoner webpage and interactive email system aimed at empowering people in prisons and forensic hospitals and bringing them into the digitial world, reducing the divide and social exclusion that currently exists. They will now have the opportunity to access an exciting, new channel of self-expression and communication, free of charge. Launch video here.
We are bringing them out of the cells and onto the net!
Justice Action has achieved a considerable victory! This comes from the National Mental Health Commission who, in their 2nd Report Card, has quoted our work "Mad in Australia" as expressing the voices of the people in the justice system regarding mental health. It says that those views and stated needs must be incorporated in any promising practice for changed policies in a failed system, costing up to $1,000,000 a person a year.
This means that we will now be listened to, rather than excluded as an illegitimate outsider, with no power, especially regarding the most unpopular and socially excluded people in the community. This acknowledgement is now being used as leverage in negotiations with bureaucracies within the criminal justice sytem and government.
Numerous international recommendations and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) condemn forcible medication, yet it continues to be allowed under Australian law. Australia was the only country of the 79 that have ratified UNCRPD to reserve its right to forcibly medicate the disabled. For our media release click here.
Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and has done much to improve the standards and mechanisms for people with disabilities in Australia. However there is still more to be done according to the recent observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the body of human rights experts tasked with monitoring the implementation of the Convention).
Michael Riley is warm, bright, gentle giant in his late 30’s. He is currently employed at a union and is the loving father of a four-and-a-half year old daughter who starts school this year. While Michael lives, works and is socially engaged in the community, he is subject to a Community Treatment Order (CTO) which has been consistently renewed for 14 years. Michael does not agree with nor does he consent to this order. His diagnosis is one of Schizoaffective Disorder - a diagnosis he rejects.
Interview with Michael Riley's experiences with the Mental Health System
Justice Action was recently engaged in a nation wide enquiry into what efforts had been made to guarantee that all eligible prisoners and non-voluntary patients are able to vote in the upcoming election. Voting is a fundamental civil right for any citizen and nobody should be excluded from this process. Justice Action revealed a lack of adequate consideration being put into preparing that all Australians have their fair opportunity to participate in Election Day.
A person who is able to vote has the same voice in our democracy as every other Australian, because a prisoner gets one vote just like Rudd or Abbot when it comes to ballot time. It is a question of equality that has been fought hard to win and to preserve throughout Australian history. This issue is of vital importance for those affected and a concern for all those who value democratic values.
Australians who are held inside institutions against their will rely on those in charge to allow them a chance to vote. Australian prisoners who are serving a sentence of more than three years are not eligible to vote under current law. Mental health patients are vulnerable to lose their voting rights if they are deemed to be unsound of mind by a medical practitioner. There are already many challenges for eligibility to vote so those who are eligible must be given a proper chance to vote in the election.
Only as recently as 2007 were prisoners allowed the right to vote when Vickie Roach challenged the high court on the Howard government’s decision to take the right to vote away from prisoners. When the High Court held that the law was not valid it was a huge victory for prisoners throughout the country and for democracy.
All in all, Justice Action wishes you read this edition of JUST US to help you decide who you vote for on September 7.
"Following an Australian national campaign to ensure the enrolment of people in prisons and in hospitals, the result shows that many were blocked from doing so" said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.
Due to a request from the Mental Health Review Tribunal, the Justice Action team was forced to remove the names of persons related to the proceedings. Our plaintiff’s name has been replaced with ‘A’. This occurs despite the clear wishes of A to have his name publicised and the basic entitlement to freely and publicly criticise the abuses of justice done to him.
On Thursday, 27 July 2013, the Mental Health Review Tribunal chaired by an ex-Supreme Court Justice conducted a hearing for the case of A with A’s psychiatrists. Representing for the hospital was the head of the treating team, a nurse, a registrar and others. Solicitor Peter O’Brien and 2 members of Justice Action were also there to support A. Justice Action’s publication of Mad in Australia was distributed to the hearing’s attendees.
The Justice Action team outside the Court of Appeal on Friday 28 June 2013
Report on $36,000 Costs Hearing in Court of Appeal
On Friday 28 June 2013, Justices Ruth McColl and Fabian Gleeson heard Saeed Dezfouli’s application for leave to appeal. Appeal is sought against the cost order of $36,000 made by Justice Johnson in the Supreme Court against Saeed and his primary carer. The decision has been reserved until a later date to be determined. If the court grants leave, a further hearing will be heard in front of three judges to determine the appeal itself.
This publication exposes the history of abuse of mental health patients in historical and cultural context. It identifies how the culture of doctors forcing medication on mental health patients began, in breach of their ethical obligations, and against the evidence of its effectiveness. It also offers solutions. Below is earlier text.Download the latest edition (Nov 6, 2013) here.
This latest Justice Action Report includes the battle of Callan Park, the use of force in prisons, progress on the detainees publication JUST US, torture and hospital inspection, death in custody, the CJC Hypothetical, music and art. It covers August 2012 to April 2013. Download here
"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.