The Nagle Royal Commission into NSW Prisons came after agitation by prisoners and campaigns by many, including the late Labor MP George Petersen. The report by Justice John Nagle proposed and led to these changes:
- A new ethos which held that prison was a poor sanction in terms of its stated aims, and was to be a last resort of sentencing.
- Exposure and elimination of systematic bashings, especially at Grafton Jail.
- The immediate closure of Katingal (which Nagle called an electronic zoo).
- A general upgrading of prison conditions, including the introduction of contact visits and phone calls, and recognition of some other minimum conditions.
- A recognition that prisoners should be listened to, and have committees as well as access to complaints mechanisms.
- A new regime under Commissioner Tony Vinson (1979-81), which would help bring about many of the reforms proposed by Nagle.
The principal policy recommendation of the Nagle report (No. 7) was that ‘loss of liberty is the extent of punishment… a prisoner should be treated justly and humanely ... [and] Imprisonment should be a last resort and those imprisoned should be kept in the lowest appropriate security’.
The Nagle Report in Appendix H has a brief history of the NSW prison system and prison policy from 1788-1967, apart from its own review of events of the 1970.
J. F. Nagle (1978) Report of the Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons, Vol 1, 2 & 3, Government Printer, Sydney, April.
Report of the Royal Commission into New South Wales Prisons Download Here