Targeting abuse of authority
About Justice Action
Justice Action (JA) is a community-based advocacy group targeting abuse of authority. It is based in the Trades Hall Building in Sydney. It is independent from government, funding itself through the social enterprise Breakout Media Communications, its primary sponsor.
JA provides a watchdog function overlooking authorities with a focus on criminal justice and health systems, and assists those who suffer from abuses of the system. JA believes that meaningful change depends upon the free exchange of information, community involvement and the taking of responsibility by all members of the community.
JA also works in coalition at the local, national and international level, through the Community Justice Coalition, national networks and the International Conference of Penal Abolition (ICOPA). JA comprises prisoners, victims of crime, ex-prisoners, lawyers, academics, students, mental health consumers, carers, family members and members from the general public.
JA volunteers provide prisoner, mental health and court support, engage in legal policy development, initiate campaigns and liaise with stakeholders. These activities seek to expose police and penal abuse, misconduct and corruption, promote social inclusion for all, and advance meaningful change to the criminal justice and mental health systems.
JA has continually supported the rights and welfare of prisoners, mental health patients and their families as an expression of the prisoner community in Australia. JA has also contributed to the safety of the wider community. The organisation’s activities have addressed a wide range of areas such as health, education with an emphasis on assisting marginalised groups such as women, youth and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Some of JA’s achievements are as follows:
- Represented all Australians held against their will at the 2009 Consultation for the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) Treaty.
- Hosted the defence of those accused of the Hilton Hotel bombing and employed the coordinator of the successful Anderson, Dunn and Alister Campaign.
- Presented four justice reform research papers on restorative justice, cognitive behaviour therapy, remissions and computers in cells at ICOPA 14 (2012) in Trinidad.
- Defended the rights of children to maintain their all day visits to their mothers at the Emu Plains Correctional Centre.
- Defended the prisoners right to vote in the Senate in 1997 and again in 2006.
- Worked with Women Behind Bars to successfully change the law on provocation in domestic violence murder cases, around the Bruce and Violet Roberts Blockade.
- Successfully defended Saeed Dezfouli’s right to education while at a forensic hospital.
- Initiated ex-prisoner Richard Lynott's case against the Government for negligence due to their failure to supply clean needles and syringes in prison, causing his death.
- Initiated a campaign for mental health patients in Long Bay Correctional Complex to not be locked in cells for 18 hours a day rather than 12, as a cost saving measure.
- Facilitated the creation of the Australian Prisoners Union in 1999.
- Led a consultation with prisoners in the two largest prisons in NSW before the Drug Summit in May 1999. JA also led a consultation with New Zealand prisoners on the privatisation of prisons before the Inquiry by the NSW Law and Order Select Committee in July 2009 and in the ACT prison on a NSP in 2011.
- Distributes Just Us, the detainees’ newspaper nationally in all prisons in all states and territories and to all judges and politicians in Australia for many years.
- Worked with Mission Australia to conduct a series of mentoring workshops for many young people in the Campbelltown/ Hornsby area of Sydney, who have been identified as being at risk of becoming offenders.
- In conjunction with TAFE, created a community mentoring course with special modules to address the needs of those in tension with the law. The 22 graduates were mainly ex-prisoners.
- Initiated the computer project, which had over 100 computers donated to prisons from the corporate and community.
- Lobbied for the Wood Royal Commission and brought evidence on numerous issues including wrongful convictions and followed for case reviews.
- After the Nagle Royal Commission exposures and government inaction, ran a private prosecution against 10 Grafton and Bathurst prison officers and a doctor for 4 months working with law students and 32 prisoner witnesses.
Founding Principles and Focus
Justice Action and the prisoner movement trace their history back to the penal colony with its slavery and degradation of human beings. From that moment, the spirit of Justice Action has existed. Justice Action’s specific focus is on issues relating to:
- a safer, more compassionate community
- human rights, prisoners’ and victims’ rights
- improved mental health for our community
- the system of social control involving police and courts
- the needs of ex-prisoners, their families and loved ones, and
- methods for cutting rates of recidivism.
We seek to uncover and expose police and penal abuse, misconduct and corruption and to promote reform and meaningful change.We seek to assist those who suffer from the abuses of the system.
We provide prisoner, mental health and court support, and handle cases and complaints. With over 100 cases active at any one time, we facilitate representaton by lawyers and agitate for investigations by government departments, by media and by independent oversight agencies.
We promote policies and initiate campaigns to uphold viable non-custodial alternatives to imprisonment and policies that criminalise the inequities in our local and global communities.
We work in coalition at the local, national and international level, including the Community Justice Coalition, national networks and the International Conference on Penal Abolition ICOPA.
We believe that meaningful change depends upon community responsibility and free access to and exchange of information as the basis for understanding and action.
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