Prison Issues

Prison Issues

Prison Privatisation

Media Release: Private Prison Serco takeover: Royal Commission call
Junee Prison Death
Grafton Private Prison
The Failure of Private Prisons in the US - August 2016
Social Impact Bonds Critique 2016

Privatisation refers to the transfer of ownership and management of prisons from the government to private sector actors. This means that the prison structure - which as a state institution, aims to protect the public good - is now being treated as a business venture. Businesses rely on growth in order to generate profit. It follows that an influx of prisoners will equate to an increase in profits. Justice Action unequivocally believes that higher rates of incarceration are not in the public interest. For this reason, 'solving' issues such as overcrowding and resource constraints through the privatisation of prisons is unsustainable, morally questionable and largely counterproductive. Privatisations of Prisons analysis

The US prison system illustrates the dangers of privatisation. The inflation of the US prison population has coincided with the increased privatisation of prison facilties. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 6% of state prisons and 16% of federal prisons are privately run. Currently, the US boasts the highest prison population rate in the world, at 716 per 100,000 people. Despite claims that violent crime has decreased, rates of incarceration have increased. This has resulted in the increased incarceration of minor offenders, including victims of political campaigns such as the War on Drugs. In this sense, reaching prison quotas is achieved through systemic corruption and a blatant rejection of the welfare of the accused individual.

Additionally, the media has exacerbated the growth of corporate power in the US prison system. The media plays a signicant role in shifting public perceptions of the value and function of prison, often employing the language of freedoms and liberties to justify the appauling treatment of those who have abused these rights. A number of prison corporations in the US have been accused of forming alliances with right-wing media channels that disseminate fear into the public sphere. Instilling fear into the community will invariably lead to more validation and support for the expansion of the prison system. A fundamental problem with the US privatised prison system is that it largely ignores prisoner welfare and lacks a genuine consideration for rehabilitation because it stands in direct conflict with the pursuit of corporate interests. In the privatised prison realm, potential reoffenders are viewed as security for the attainment of future profits.

It is clear that the system is in need of reform. However, it is important to evaluate all potential options prior to contracting out a vitally important public institution into the hands of private business.

More from Justice Action:
New Zealand Privatisation
NSW Privatisation 2009
Privatisation on an international level
NSW proposal for a private prison model
New Zealand's Mt Eden Correctional Facility reverts to publicInternational Research Proves Prison Privatisation is a Failure

Right Now is a volunteer not-for-profit organisation that focuses on highlighting human rights issues in Australia through accessible and engaging media, believing that a rights-respecting culture begins with the open flow of information. In 2012, they published a damning review of prison privatisation in Australia. Read the report here.

The Sentencing Project, a US not-for-profit organisation involved in research and advocacy for criminal justice issues, published a report in 2013 of the inherent failings of prison privatisation in the US, a model that has been followed by other countries overseas. Read the report here.

The Conversation published the results of a comparative analysis of prisons in Nordic countries, with a wholly public system, and those in English-speaking countries, where private prisons are common. Read the article here.

Inspector's Report


Overview of Inspector of Custodial Services Report

Bolivia Prison Wordpress

Full House: The Growth of the Inmate Population in NSW’

Parliamentary forum August 26,2015 & CJC/ICJ Analysis of Report

JA Analysis of CSNSW Response to Report

CSNSW Response to Inspector's Report

See our Media Release: Prisons Budget Expansion Failure 

“Full House: The Growth of the inmate population in NSW” written by the Inspector of Custodial Services, J. R. Paget tabled in parliament 6th may 2015, brings to light the stark realities of prison overcrowding in NSW. Mr John Paget, former Assistant Commissioner for New South Wales warns of the consequences on inmates and staff of the mismanagement he documented. He said:                                                                                                           

“Where the state treats inmates in a way that denies them a modicum of dignity and humanity it should not be surprised if they respond accordingly, with individual acts of non-compliant behaviour escalating into collective disorder, such as riots” (Foreword)

This report outlines the negative implication the growth of the inmate population has had upon issues such as overcrowding, rehabilitation and education services, as well as the health and wellbeing of prisoners.

Read more

Grafton Prison


Latest News:
Serco Abusive Prisons, Not Grafton Next!
Grafton Community Interest Research
Plans Unveiled for Australia's Largest Prison
Grafton Man to Unfairly Lose Home 

Grafton Prison currently houses 64 inmates. The NSW Government has announced developments will ensue in order to provide a maximum capacity of 1700 inmates by 2020. These developments will be the product of a partnership between the Government and a private enterprise (a Consortium consisting of Serco, Macquarie Capital, John Liang and John Holland).

Serco is an international service that works with government and public service providers in seven key sectors: Citizen Services, Defence, Facility Services, Health, Immigration, Justice and Transport. This company delivers services to the UK, Europe, North America, the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia. In 2017, Serco (as part of the Northern Pathways Consortium) was awarded the contract for the operation of the New Grafton Correctional Centre.

Serco claims to deliver a responsible prisoner model that promotes respect, encourages positive behaviours and allows prisoners to learn and take responsibility for managing their own circumstances. They directly manage prison accommodation, prisoner mental health services, prisoner transport, and rehabilitation programs. They also aim to reduce recidivism to improve social outcomes and reduce the burden on law enforcement. 

Despite these claims, Serco’s track record for international prison management has been met with severe criticism. Serco’s deviation from its doctrine of prisoner autonomy and rehabilitation in these instances not only questions the reliability of Serco’s management of the New Grafton Correctional Centre, but also the broader consequences of prison privatisation.


Supermax's cruel and degrading conditions


On March 11, a select group of thirteen prisoners, all Muslim, were re-classified as ‘extreme high-risk restricted’, without any explanation provided as to why these changes suddenly occurred. The majority of these prisoners have been convicted of terrorism-related offences, except for two prisoners who are still awaiting trial on terrorism offences. The prisoners’ new classification was accompanied by a raft of unprecedented changes to conditions inside the prison, which have been described as ‘cruel and degrading’.

Justice Action has raised serious concerns regarding the introduction of strict new security regulations at Goulburn’s ‘Supermax’ Correctional Centre. The regulations clearly breach A10 of the ICCPR, which state all persons are to be "treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person". Justice Action has written a letter to the Commissioner to urgently review these changes. 

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Domestic Violence

domestic violence photo.jpgLATEST NEWS
Domestic Violence Prevention Paper  

The prevalence of domestic violence continues to increase at an alarming rate; perpetrators of domestic violence offences are amongst the most represented groups within correctional services.  

The clear need to explore additional counseling options for domestic violence is demonstrated by the high recidivism rate. With 20.3% of perpetrators reoffending within twelve months of release, online services could provide crucial assistance in ending the cyclical nature of domestic violence.  

In 2015, Justice Action offered to conduct a free 3 month trial of online delivery of councelling services in NSW correctional services. You can view more here.

Read more

Deaths in Custody

Deaths in Custody  

David Dungay Jr death in custody inquest

Deaths in Custody are an expression of the ultimate failure in the duty of care of police and corrective services when they isolate people from their support. Despite the clear mandate of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the investment of hundreds of millions of government dollars, the deaths continue uninterrupted. 

The sharp increase in the numbers of Aboriginal deaths in custody indicates that the recommendations of the Royal Commission are not being properly implemented and continues to reflect the grossly disproportionate representation of indigenous peoples within the criminal justice system. 

Single cell
 accommodation as an option giving privacy and safety is recommended by "The Standard Guideline for Corrections in Australia 2012". Frank Townsend, Scott Simpson, Craig Behr are some of the victims of forced shared cells



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.

Tracy Brannigan's case and Inquest raised issues that haven't yet been addressed, despite the wide distribution of the Tracy Brannigan Action Plan.


2006 Prisoner Statistics
2005 Prisoner Statistics 



Recommendation 41 of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody defines a death in custody as follows:
(i) the death wherever occurring of a person who is in prison custodyor police custody or detention as a juvenile;
(ii) the death wherever occurring of a person whose death is caused or contributed to by traumatic injuries sustained, or by lack of proper care whilst in such custody or detention;
(iii) the death wherever occurring of a person who dies or is fatally injured in the process of police or prison officers attempting to detain that person; and
(iv) the death wherever occurring of a person who dies or is fatally injured in the process of that person escaping or attempting to escape from prison custody or police custody or juvenile detention.


NSW Privatisation 2009

2009 Legislative Proposal for Privatisation
Following the proposed privatisation of Parklea Correctional Centre, a parliamentary inquiry called for a three month pause in negotiations. Justice Action presented a media release arguing the privatisation of Parlea is morally wrong (view here). Notably, the Legislative Council held an inquiry that received 453 submissions with all but eleven in opposition to privatation, including the multinationals and Corrections. This was followed up with a 'black ban call' on the five private multinational corporations tendering for the prison (view here). 

Community Support
The community says NO!  There was a one hundred day picket line on Premier Rees' electoral office, leafletting of shopping centres in fourteen electorates on Super Saturday May 30, rallies and a Statewide Day of Action. The government started to empty Cessnock Jail in preparation. Shuffling at Parklea and Long Bay are currently in occurance. Strikes and lockdowns are happening in response.

Justice Action has consulted with the prisons and now joins the PSA and Unions NSW to oppose the privatisations. 

Unions NSW passed a resolution at their meeting November 20: "Unions NSW congratulate Justice Action for supporting the Prison Officer’s strike against the NSW Government’s proposals to privatise Parklea and Cessnock Prisons."

Sylvia Hale, Greens spokeperson on Corrective Services, denounces GEO Parklea prison contract (view here).

Further Reading

Notice for public hearing on privatisation of prisons

Transcript of proceedings before the inquiry
Relevant sections
   >Presentation of evidence by JA on behalf of NSW prisoners: p40-51
   >Presentation of evidence by NSW Department of Corrective Services Commissioner: p2-24
   >Presentation of evidence by prison officer's union: p25-39

JA submission to parliamentary inquiry

Attachment to submission: 'Community not Corporation'

Stateline ABCTC transcripts, 20/7/09 and 27/2/09

Greens' Minister Sylvia Hale's Urgency Motion for Amendment Bill to prevent privatisation

Midnight eviction of Cessnock prisoners: Media Release 16/3/09


Prison violence is a major issue among prisoners and is one that requires urgent attention. Justice Action aims to campaign against prisoner violence, making prisons safer for inmates. Current projects we are working on include the deaths of inmates Craig Behr and Scott Simpson. Justice Action has applied to the coroners’ court to participate in the upcoming second inquest of Craig Behr.

The Behrooz Ghasemi Case

The Behrooz Ghasemi Case


Mr Behrooz Ghasemi, an inmate at Parklea Correctional Centre, has filed several complaints against Parklea for denying, hindering and impeding his right as an inmate to access to justice.

Firstly, Mr Ghasemi was denied legal services of legal resources for his upcoming criminal and civil proceedings. He was not allowed to forward legal documents to his legal adviser by the Corrective Service NSW due to the fact that it is not within the scope of Parklea to provide assistance for civil proceedings.

Secondly, the “networked” computers that are provided within the prison have constant connectivity issue for the past year. This hinders or impedes Mr Ghasemi’s access to justice, as it is part of the policy that inmates have access to networked computers for legal purposes. For example, the limited access to the Legal Info Portal. 

Lastly, Parklea is not providing a library with adequate materials to inmates in order to meet their legal needs. 


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