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.
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 a gentle and well-educated man in his late 30s who has been taken against his will in and out of state mental health systems and forcibly medicated since February 2000. Since then, his rights have been constantly abused and the authorities treat him like a criminal despite proclaiming that he isn’t. Michael has no criminal record and has never harmed another person or himself in his life, yet he is being treated like he has supposedly breached the Mental Health Act. In his interview with Justice Action, Michael shares his experience at the hands of the mental health system. His size at 6'3" and his unusual beliefs have made him a easy target.
Interview with Michael Riley's experiences with the Mental Health System
The campaign for the rights of people detained in hospitals has achieved major victories! On Friday 4th October 2013, the Supreme Court confirmed its injunction stopping the forced injection of Saeed Dezfouli until a hearing on December 12. This has now become an appeal from the Mental Health Review Tribunal's (MHRT) decision on September 12 to allow the hospital to inject Saeed. But it did decide for the first time that it had the legal power to stop it. And the Tribunal gave permission to the ABC to use Saeed’s name in their reports on his case.
These developments represent important wins in the fight for Saeed to have a say in his treatment and his right to his identity. The battle lines are well defined. The health system is exposed as a merciless and expensive abuse of power cloaked as "care".
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.
Justice Action was recently engaged in a series of nation-wide enquiries with all of the States and Territories of Australia, to ascertain what efforts and structures had been made to guarantee that all eligible prisoners, forensic patients and involuntary patients had been enrolled to vote in the upcoming Federal Election on the 7th September, 2013. The deadline for enrolment was 8pm (EST) on Monday 12th August.
The results collected were troubling to say the very least – especially since voting is a fundamental civil right for any citizen in a democracy like Australia.
The research carried out by JA revealed a fundamental lack of consistency and adequate consideration being put into the preparations for ensuring that all these Australians have their fair opportunity to participate on Election Day.
"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.
On 3 September 2013, Tammy Franks MLC, the Greens' Correctional Services spokesperson, has acted on behalf of people in prisons throughout Australia, as he called out South Australia's Corrective Services in their refusal to admit the Just Us 2013: Federal Election special edition into prisons and health facilities.
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.
The ongoing saga of Saeed Dezfouli developed into farce yesterday when an investigator sent to interview Justice Action regarding material on its website refused to ask his questions in front of witnesses. He left saying that his right to privacy was being violated. He said that he was protecting Saeed’s rights under the Mental Health Act to not be named, although Saeed says he has the right to his name in criticising his forced treatment. It all seems unhealthy secrecy wielding immense power.
Tracy Brannigan’s avoidable death in custody marks the loss of a loved one and must force change in the prison system. She was owed a duty of care but rather than accepting responsibility, they isolated her in a cell away from her family and support. Their callous indifference caused her death. Download Report
Update:Media Release Friday 3rd May 2013, Justice Action calls for a public inquiry into avoidable deaths in custody, and launches the Tracy Brannigan Action Plan.
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 amentally 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.
http://www.phaa.net.au/2012JusticeHealth August 15, 2012 JA paper to Symposium: "The Emperor has no clothes: Justice Health’s lack of concern for the welfare of its clients is blindingly obvious and yet the health industry still pretends it is fulfilling its obligations. download
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.
Eric Mcgraw interviewed Justice Action for the UK's #1 prisoner newspaper 'Inside Time'. The interview centred around our four new research papers that offer a fresh approach to imprisonment. Launched at the international conference ICOPA XIV in Trinidad, they create a new paradigm of prisoner responsibility and empowerment. http://tiny.cc/xbcqjw Several jurisdictions are currently negotiating assistance with their implementation.
This report is to update you with our latest news and projects. Please let us know if you can offer any feedback on any of the topics raised below. download
The Justice Action office has been busier than ever. New team members have come aboard as current campaigns and developing issues present an ever- growing range of efforts. The photo above shows part of the growing team.
Our four Justice Reform Initiative research papers, recently launched at an international conference in Trinidad, adopt the new concept of prisoner empowerment and responsibility that propose proactive approaches to doing time. Ministers, bureaucrats and leading academics in each field of research were consulted and their feedback was incorporated into the papers.
JA has been exposing the shocking treatment of those affected by mental health policies while held in prisons and forensic hospitals. We have produced several research papers in this area such as the Forced Medication and Patient and Prisoner Controlled Services papers. Our being involved in this area stems from our relationship with several current patients, including Saeed Dezfouli, who have articulated the need for change in these areas.
This is our regular report to update you with our latest news and projects. Please let us know if you can provide any assistance or advice on these issues or generally. Feedback on our new ground-breaking papers linked below, items 4, 5 and 6 would be greatly appreciated.