Prison Issues

Prison Issues

NSW Exposed In Australian Government Report


Latest News:
Productivity Commission Report on Government Services 2017

Released on the 31st of January 2017, the Report on Government Services demonstrates the failure of the NSW corrections system. Firstly, NSW has the most time in cells of all Australian jurisdictions, where prisoners spend 17.5 hours inside their cell per day for secure facilities where most prisoners are held (Table 8A.12 on p.475). Remand prisoners are held for 18.5 hours a day in cells according to the Full House Report by the Inspector General s4.56. It has got worse each year as you can see from that Commonwealth Report on Government Services.

Furthermore, NSW has the worse recidivism of all states and is getting worse. Defined as returning to prison under sentence within two years, last years recidivism rate stood at 50.7%, up from 48.1% the year before and 45.8 in 2014 (See Table C.5 on p.23). This is a total failure compared to the State Plan. NSW State priority in the State Plan:

The plan aims to make safer communities by Reduce adult re-offending by five per cent by 2019, though reoffending rates in NSW are increasing, with the majority of prisoners in the state having offended before. In fact, a small group of persistent offenders is responsible for the majority of crime.

The government is working to reduce reoffending by adult offenders and improve community safety and confidence in the justice system.


The Report also shows of all jurisdictions:

NSW has the Highest rate of assaults on prisoners (Table 8A.17 p.482), the most overcrowding (Fig8.8, Table 8A.14 p.477) and lowest investment per prisoner (Fig8.9 Table 8A.19 p.487)

This report leaves NSW Corrective Services very exposed. Passing responsibility to private companies for new jails is just an attempt to displace responsibility.

Prison Privatisation

Minister for Corrections David Elliott admits failure-

Gaols are not for sale!

The concerning issue of the privatisation of prisons in Australia in New Zealand is at an all time high. The New South Wales Government in Australia is allowing a private operator to bid to run a gaol in Sydney’s North West- The John Morony Correctional Centre. The SMH released an article on March 21 2016 reporting the significant pressure about to be placed on public prisons in that they must meet their performance aims or risk being run by the private sector. In response, the Public Service Association understand the privatisation of prisons as “another short sighted cash grab” through the obvious lack of liability and pellucidity.

The current regulation of Mt Eden’s Prison in Auckland New Zealand by Serco is being investigated for their incompetent efforts of management of the prison as the profit they have accumulated have been put elsewhere than in the public service as assured. This is just one example of the failure of privatisation of prisons.  The Article states; “We are demanding a full, independent investigation into Serco’s involvement in Mt Eden Prison. One with the integrity and scope that the New Zealand public deserves. But that’s not all. We are also demanding a moratorium on the consideration of Serco for any further public sector contracts. Because we can’t afford to let them fail again in Children’s Services, Mental Health or State Housing.” – Say no to Serco in Aotearoa, Action Station.

Serco have also failed to stop fight clubs, drinking and drug use….

The great concern leans on the difference between the private sectors motivations and the public sectors motivations. The private sector is driven by the pursuit of profit whereas the democratic system of government accentuates a responsibility for the wider community. In the context of prisons, the profit motivation postures severe questions causing great apprehensions between profits and the obligation of corrections to effectively rehabilitate and support a prisoner’s re-entry to society, aiming for reduced rates of recidivism.

If the state is going to continue to hand over public correctional center’s to private sectors then vigilant and all-inclusive contracts need to be drafted that explicitly outline firm terms in relation to prison operations, performance targets and management. In addition, these private sectors should be examined by Independent structures separate to the correctional service within a jurisdiction to investigate, advise, and provide unequivocal analysis over the standards of privatized correctional services and its functioning practices.

Prison privatisation is the most momentous elaboration in penal policy in the second half of the 20th century. Evidently, if it is not correctly controlled and made thoroughly accountable for its operations and outcomes, privatisation could have relapsing effects.

The task is to certify that privatisation is controlled for the benefit of imprisonment benchmarks as a whole, giving Governments a responsibility to regulate procedures so that the private and public prisons in Australia are represent equity, moral standards and a decency in their operations.

Some current news:





Computers In Cells Project Crowdfunding

The campaign for the computers in cells project has officially been launched. All Members of Parliament, Judges and Magistrates have been sent letters requesting their support for the computers in cells campaign. For more details about the campaign, click here. 

We need your help to ensure that this campaign lifts and gains momentum. Every donation will assist in giving people inside access to life-changing counselling, legal and educational services through computers in cells. Finally it is starting to move.

The proceeds raised will fund the campaign coordination, as well as aiding in the research and implementation of the computers in cells project.  We ask that you help us provide detainees whether in prison, locked hospitals or juvenile justice centres with much needed access to computers, by donating to our GoFundMe page. We aim to raise $230,000 to ensure this task runs to completion. 



Online Legal Services


27/04/2017 Media Release: Computer Restrictions Justify Bail  

Everyone is entitled to justice, and to fair treatment before the law. This especially includes people in prison who are totally dependent on state control and the most vulnerable, subject to the harshest punishment available. However prisoners are often unable to exercise those legal rights, isolated from support, in cells without resources, but with time and incentive to defend themselves.

People in prisons must have the ability to access resources that assist preparing their defence, and exercising their right to a fair trial. This is why it is essential for people in prisons to have access to computers, as a tool to access evidence, a source of legal knowledge and the ability to present information to help themselves. That right is supported by many cases. The courts can adjourn and release to bail.

People in prison are often not able to access face-to-face legal advice and representation as they require. Barriers include time restraints, restricted access to resources due to classification or physical segregation, and lack of knowledge on the legal system. In some cases, people in prison may choose not to consult with legal professionals due to lack of trust, unreliability and difficulty in communication.

Online legal services for people in prison would help combat some of these barriers. But even standalone computers with access to CDs and USBs are essential. In some states and for some people they are available, but not yet generally accepted as a legal right.

27042017 Supreme Court IMGMr. Tony Liristis’ case highlights the issues surrounding access to justice when someone is held in the NSW prison system. In particular, it demonstrates the breakdown of a fundamental principle within the rule of law: the right to a fair trial with sufficient resources to defend oneself.

Tony Liristis, 53, who has been defending himself, has been denied necessary access to a computer to examine police documents, research the law and present his defence.  Mr. Liristis’ inability to prepare important case documents, due to this lack of computer access, has led to his court date being vacated twice, lengthening his stay in prison. In addition, this has had a detrimental impact on his health, resulting in him being diagnosed with PTSD.

Legal precedent establishes that access to a fair trial is a common law right. However, without proper access to computers and the law, prisoners cannot be involved their case, regularly correspond with legal representatives or advisors, review the evidence being held against them and prepare written submissions to the court. If prisons restrict the prisoner’s right to legal resources, they are essentially depriving them of their right to participate in their own trial.

On the 3rd of January 2017, Liristis wrote to Justice Action requesting our assistance in his plight to access a computer. Justice Action has written to the Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW two times, citing relevant legislation and legal principles to support Liristis’ right to access a computer (See Letter 1 and Letter 2). Justice Action compiled a thorough and persuasive paper regarding prisoners’ right to access legal resources. This pertained to a wide-faring judicial consideration of principles affirming the rule of law through civil access to  justice, procedural fairness, the right to an adjournment and the right to be released on bail. The Commissioner’s response to Liristis’ request for an adequate computer and Internet access stated “CSNSW does not permit inmate access to the Internet.” The Commissioner said that he was satisfied that the computer given to Liristis was adequate for his needs.

Liristis has been given access to a computer for approximately two hours per day, although this computer does not work properly, and cannot open the necessary files for Mr Liristis to view all of his evidence, as the computer is almost 20 years old. He is only able to access his material via the Legal Portal system. Prison officers conduct the transfer of material, which compromises its security. Liristis has previously been forced to open his legal documents for perusal and inspection by officers, in clear contradiction of the Department’s Operations and Procedures Manual, which explicitly states that such material is legally privileged and not to be accessed by prison officers. On the 28th of March 2017, Justice Action responded to the Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW stating that Mr Liristis has been denied the ability to send emails to the court, and to sign out a USB stick, both of which greatly deprive him of his ability to exercise his right to legal defence. The Director of Corrections Executive Services and Complaints Management responded to Justice Action on the 7th of April 2017 and has refused to assist and address our concerns.

Liristis had his Bail Application on 6 April 2017 however it has been postponed to 27 April 2017. Justice Wilson commented that the reason for the Bail Application being postponed is because the prosecution was not ready. Liristis had still not been given access to police documents and expressed fustration at the prosecution in this regard. 

Ultimately, Liristis desperately requires access to a working computer and the law in order to properly prepare for court hearings and defend himself against these charges.



University Textbook Access-Jeffrey McKane

In a victory not only for Jeffrey McKane, but for all prisoners’ access to education, Justice Action has now succeeded in providing Mr McKane with access to the textbooks that are necessary to support his legal education.

Justice Action has been attempting to support Mr McKane’s educational endeavours by accessing online lecture materials on his behalf and sending him other vital learning materials, such as textbooks. The Commissioner of Corrective Services NSW gave express written permission for Justice Action to send textbooks to Mr McKane in a letter of 10 August 2016, advising that “all mail must be sent through the normal mail processes for checking”.  However, despite following the Commissioner’s directions, the textbooks sent by Justice Action to Goulburn Correctional Centre were rejected by prison mail officers on two separate occasions.

After Justice Action directly contacted the Commissioner, reminding him of his earlier assurance, it was arranged that Justice Action would send textbooks and other materials to Jeffrey McKane by addressing packages to the General Manager of the prison.  Justice Action has now been able to successfully provide Mr McKane with the textbooks that will allow him to meaningfully continue his studies in prison.

Justice Action took on Mr McKane’s case to protect his universal right of access to education. For individuals within the criminal justice system, this right is significant as it may facilitate further rehabilitation, ensure greater productivity during incarceration and provide a solid foundation for employment and self-development opportunities upon post-release.

This case provides a promising precedent for access to education in NSW prisons. We wish Jeffrey the best of luck with his future studies.

Prisoner Education Success Despite Ban

A huge achievement for a prisoner pursuing his right to education. Jeffrey McKane is a prisoner who, with the help of Justice Action, overcame numerous barriers – most of all being blocked by Corrective Services NSW – to complete his education. Jeffrey has just completed LAW00051: Legal Research and Writing at Southern Cross University, achieving the high result of a credit grade. The achievement is even more remarkable given that the NSW government this year has sacked almost 90% of teachers in prisons, and he did it with no support.

Jeffrey faced many barriers on his path to education. After Corrective Services NSW refused Jeffrey access to education in early 2016, JA intervened on the principle of the right to education. JA enrolled him to the university, supplied him with downloaded lecture notes and textbooks, and corresponded with him and academic staff. His success is a huge win for prisoners seeking to further their education.

With Education Officers in Goulburn Jail ending their jobs on Friday, 9th December 2016, the struggle will continue. Jeffrey will need to print and send his assignments to the University, and access audio CDs to listen to lectures. JA will continue to support Jeffrey in his public fight for an education. We will ask CSNSW to ensure Jeffrey’s access isn’t blocked.

The government has moved towards privatising prisoner education by sacking 138 out of 158 teachers and putting up for tender privately contracted trainers. The Minister for Corrections, David Elliott, claims that the new system will enable more prisoners to have the opportunity to access numeracy and literacy classes with the aim of reducing recidivism but has supplied no details regarding how this transition will occur and there is no evidence to support the claim that this system will be better off losing 138 qualified teachers trained in prison education.


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