Justice Action proposes and agitates for change in social justice policies across topics such as mental health, human rights, deaths in custody and prisoner education. To achieve change we focus, analyse and publish our views as the basis for action. Below are the current campaigns we are advocating for.
Denying education to prisoners is a breach of a basic human right, and it is happening in prisons across Australia and worldwide. Through the Prisoner Education campaign at Justice Action, we aim to advocate the importance of education and the implementation of education inside prisons. Education is widely associated with improvements to quality of life as people with higher education levels have greater employment opportunities. More significantly, a study conducted by RAND highlights that education is a significant factor in reducing recidivism rates by 43%.
At Justice Action, we correspond with Australian Universities as well as Education and Justice Ministers to raise awareness of the injustices faced by prisoners and advocate for the beneficial impact that education have on prisoners.
A recent breakthrough has allowed for education to be received in prison through the use of computer tablet technology. Dillwynia Correctional Centre and John Morony Correctional Centre have implemented computer tablets for each inmate, significantly impacting the educational opportunities incarcerated people can receive. Through the University of Southern Queensland, inmates are able to complete a Tertiary Preparation Program (TPP) on their computer tablets.
The Fight to Ban Strip Searched Under OPCAT
Justice Action are advocating for an effective implementation of the United Nations’ Optional Protocol for the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (OPCAT). Justice Action has been involved in the area since 2009, and is in regular contact with the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s OPCAT Advisory Group, as well as other relevant actors in the area. We have engaged these entities to ensure that the lived experiences of those in detention remain at the centre of this implementation process.
At present, we are compiling research on the strip searching of women and solitary confinement. For example, Pursuant to the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) (‘LEPRA’), police are entitled with the power to strip-search a person. Strip-searches are degrading, humiliating, violate the right of bodily integrity and contravene Australia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). Searches of this kind are routinely conducted in prisons, music festivals and on the streets. Our investigations into this will allow us to provide a set of recommendations to better uphold Australia’s commitment to and obligations under the OPCAT.
Kerry O’Malley Case Leads to MHRT Contact
The case of Kerry O’Malley exposes the abuse of vulnerable people by the mental health system. The Mental Health Review Tribunal rejected her proposed alternative plan, which incorporated medical and social intervention strategies to enhance Kerry’s autonomy over her own life and mental health. Instead, they forcibly medicated her. The subsequent injection given to Ms O’Malley caused her to experience severe mental and physical side effects such as increased anxiety, poor concentration, weight gain, and loss of hair. Kerry O’Malley’s challenge against her forced medication was recently decided in her favour in the Supreme Court. Despite the victory for her personally, the Court was denied the opportunity to establish the limits of the power to forcibly medicate individuals.
Justice Action is now in contact with the Mental Health Review Tribunal (MHRT) to amend a number of issues we see as vital. These issues were brought to our attention during Kerry’s case. Firstly, MHRT’s website should be expanded upon to define: ‘least restrictive practice’ as outlined under the definition of a CTO; ‘mental illness’; and ‘serious harm’. Further, Justice Action advocates for the use of alternatives to CTO’s and for the MHRT to work in collaboration with people with mental illnesses and disorders. These recommendations are supported by a number of reputable domestic and international bodies. See Justice Action’s ‘Limits of the Power to Forcibly Medicate’ report for more, available here.