Prison Issues

Prison Issues

China Hangzhou Prison Delegation Visit 15th November 2017

A delegation of six Chinese prison bureaucrats from the Hangzhou Municipal Justice Bureau, visited Justice Action on the 15th November. The delegates from the Zhejiang province, China were led by Deputy Director Mr Zhang Liansheng. They wanted to know about our operations, how we represent prisoners’ interests and improve the social and mental health of prisoners. They also wanted to exchange information and ideas, as well as to set up a friendly relationship.

JA described its unique position in being the voice for prisoners and forensic patients. Specific emphasis is placed on restorative justice as an alternative to prison, lessening isolation during imprisonment for prisoners through Computers in Cells and improving relationships with victims.

The Women’s Justice Network (WJN) joined us where the president, Kat Armstrong presented her work in improving the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system through mentoring. Kat statistically presented the rates of incarcerated females being 15 times the rate of males, and the WJN revealed a 7% recidivism rate for women, whereas the typical recidivism rate in the criminal justice system is 51% per year.

JA explained how it is independent and not government funded, instead supported by the social enterprise Breakout Media Communications. Restorative Justice was mentioned as an alternative to prison and aids resettlement back into the community. Mr Zhang understood the implementation of mediation (tiaojie) as means of reconciliation between all involved parties. Secondly, the concept of lessening isolation during imprisonment ultimately reduces recidivism and makes reintegration into society easier. This is achievable through Computers in Cells which provides the opportunity of communication between prisoners and their families, as well as making online counselling more accessible. Finally by offering ‘shelter, safety, social support and positive activity’ post-release it provides help for inmates to become positive contributors to society.

It was clear that all six Chinese prison bureaucrats from the justice administration of Hangzhou respected our presentation. They particularly focused their questions through an interpreter on how the state government approved many of these various reformative measures to ensure inmates are rehabilitated. They also acknowledged the intricacies of the reconciliation process and provided information about restorative justice measures whereby a victim and offender were all placed in the same room with a mediator, and all parties are able to voice their position in regards to the incident. Kat noted that this was particularly successful within Aboriginal communities in current pilot programs.

JA explained its ‘Computers in Cells’ campaign where prisoners can use online resources to communicate with family, obtain job and life skills, receive education and report complaints to relevant authorities. The ACT has had computers in cells for 8 years and is operating safety and effectively. Zhang Liansheng asked whether prisoners have unlimited access to the Internet and whether this would need prison staff’s approval. The delegates became attentive after we explained that Internet access is filtered through a centrally controlled server and the computers will have only white-listed websites and five email addresses available. Kat Armstrong further adds that online counselling for domestic violence offenders is imperative and family contact is also important in reducing recidivism.

The meeting ended on a positive note with the exchange of gifts, photos and laughs. A video record was taken, to be later posted on Youtube. The leader of the delegation Mr Zhang welcomed JA to be his guests in a visit to the Hangzhou prison system, and JA agreed to take up the invitation.

IMG 6781Delegation, JA & WJN


IMG 3546JA hosts


International Interactions


China Hangzhou Prison Delegation Visit 15th November 2017
Chinese Prison Delegation Visit 10th August 2017
Youth Access - International Survey on Computers in Cells

To assist the work of Justice Action in the local community of Australia, and to promote criminal justice worldwide, we study also the prison conditions in other jurisdictions outside Australia. Recent work includes a meeting with Chinese Prison Delegation and an International Survey on youth access of computers in cells.

Chinese Prison Delegation Visit

On 10 August 2017, Justice Action had a meeting with a delegation of 24 officials of the Bureau of Prison Administration, People's Republic of China. We presented to them our work on supporting a better system of reintegration by reducing the distance of prisoners from the community, and the delegation talked to us about the restorative justice system in China. Both JA and the Delegation benefited from the meeting.

International Survey - Youth Access of Computers in Cells

Computers in Cells is one of our major campaigns in Justice Action. We have studied the access of computers for juvenile offenders all over the world, and found it desirable for the youth offenders in New South Wales, and in all of Australia to have computers in Cells. Such services can provide prisoners with the opportunities to have access to email, education services and counselling services which would reduce their reoffending rate upon release. Currently, in the Alexander Maconochie Center, ACT, all prisoners have access to computers in cells, and the effect of such policy is significantly beneficial to the rehabilitation of prisoners.




Chinese Prison Delegation Visit 10th August 2017


Full Report - Chinese Prison Delegation Visit
Video Presentation of the meeting

JA presented to the top 24 bureaucrats from the Bureau of Prison Administration of the People’s Republic of China on the 10th of August 2017. Earlier they visited Long Bay and Silverwater prisons, as well as a briefing from Corrective Services NSW.

We were asked to present prisoners’ views on resettlement and how our experiences could help them. We invited the Women’s Justice Network to join us. Two flyers including Chinese translations were distributed to the officials.

Click here to read our presentation paper to the Bureau of Prison Administration.
Click here to read the paper of WJN about women prisoners.

JA presented the benefits of social support and access to communication via computers in cells, amidst a spirited series of questions from the Chinese officials. We highlighted our independence funded by Breakout Media Communications.

The Women’s Justice Network (WJN) presented its experience of mentoring and particular problems for women prisoners

Huang Lanzheng, the Director-General of the Bureau of Prison Administration said he respected our work. He particularly appreciated our influence on criminal justice policy reform.  He said that in China there are programs similar to restorative justice, but said “we still have something to learn from you … three things we can still learn from you are the protection of prisoners after release, reduce isolation, and restorative justice”. 

Huang Lanzheng said he felt comfortable talking directly with us, and appreciated the benefit of our experience. They all clapped and we shook hands agreeing to work together in the future on the issues of mentoring, use of technology to lessen isolation and the formation of NGO support.

Click here to read our Media Release - China Prison Bosses Ask Australia For Help
here to read our Research Paper - Prisons in China 


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. 




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