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Details of some current and past campaigns

Below is a list of some leading current campaigns and underneath is a history of past campaign work.

Details of some current campaigns

1. Youth Crime JA/Mission Australia Partnership

JA is working with Mission Australia to conduct a series of mentoring workshops for many young people in the Campbelltown/ Hornsby area of Sydney, who have been identified as being at risk of becoming offenders. The JA mentoring presentation is designed to assist them to understand the consequences of their actions based on our experiences and work through ways to ensure they do not offend. We encourage them to develop personal and social skills so that they can move forward with their lives in positive and productive ways. We link them to local services and to training opportunities.

2. Youth Naming and Shaming.

Currently before the NSW Parliament is a legislative proposal to discourage children from committing offences by publicly naming and shaming them if they offend. JA was invited to make written and personal submissions on the proposal to the Legislative Council Law and Justice Committee. When we appeared before the committee our major submission was that the emphasis in dealing with juvenile offenders should not be on naming and shaming but on restorative programs of which JA Mentoring is a prime example. The committee made up of representatives from all sides of politics showed considerable interest in our mentoring program and how it worked and its many successes. Transcript download (48kb)

3. Smoking – right to choose for Mental Health Consumers and Prisoners

The NSW Department of Health has set up a taskforce with a view to the implementation of NSW smoke free policies in NSW mental health inpatient facilities. Several mental health professionals and advocacy groups have contacted JA to seek our assistance in opposing this proposal.

JA very strongly believes that to impose such a ban on a particularly vulnerable section of society when the same ban is not imposed on the larger community, is not only undemocratic but also imposes a disproportionate level of suffering on those who are already suffering enough. We support the right to choose and not be forced to lose the most important personal pleasure that 80% of patients enjoy and currently control. We have been provided with considerable evidence of the benefits for mental health patients of being allowed to continue smoking when combined with smoke free areas to protect the health of those who do not smoke.

In our submission, it would be far better for the Department to introduce smoking intervention education programs and tools such as nicorettes and patches for mental health patients in these institutions, than banning smoking altogether. In conjunction with the
people and organizations that have contacted us, we have prepared a response in the form of a submission to the Taskforce. We have created the Right to choose alliance website.

4. Visiting mothers of Emu Plains

Problems Encountered by Children Visiting Mothers Emu Plains Correctional Centre for women is a low security prison near Sydney. It became a women’s prison in 1996, and until May 2007, had all day visits every weekend and public holidays. This was a great incentive for women to be classified low risk and moved to Emu Plains so that they could spend time with their children, family and friends with the all day visits. The majority of women in prison are mothers and rely heavily on visits to maintain the bond and contact with their children.

In May 2007, the administration changed the visiting regime without consultation, by introducing 2 hour visiting blocks separated by a lunch break. The effect caused significant distress to mothers and their children yet the administration said that the mothers wanted it – a lie! JA received numerous letters of complaint from women prisoners. In addition many state and local parliamentarians, churches and community groups have been vocal in their criticism of the Departments actions and outraged by its insensitivity.

Questions were asked in Parliamentary hearings, lies told and exposed and a representative of JA was even banned from visiting all NSW prisons for talking to and handing out leaflets to other visitors.

JA is working with families and prisoners to bring back all day visits.

5.Communication Rights for prisoners

There has been a disturbing and growing trend for prison authorities to ban prisoners from having access to legitimate published materials that are freely available in the community. This isolates prisons from the community and extends the exclusion to ideas and civil interaction.

Recent examples include the banning of prisoners in some states from receiving ‘How to Vote’ cards at election times which is widely seen as unconstitutional and the banning of our nationally published newspaper Just Us from prisons in 3 states (5 states and territories allow it in).

Our newspapers have been distributed nationally in all prisons in all states and territories and to all judges and politicians in Australia for many years (in fact, for 47 editions under the masthead, Framed). In NSW legal proceedings were taken late last year by a former inmate in the Supreme Court seeking an order that a refusal by Corrective Services to allow our newspaper’s distribution in NSW prisons be lifted.

Although he was unsuccesssful because of a technical problem with his legal standing, the Judge commented that she did not see anything in the publication ‘that could be said to prejudice the good order of the prisons.’ and had real doubts as to whether the Commissioner had considered the paper on its merits.

Some Past Campaigns

* Forced the exposure and reform of the corrupt police practice of concocting confessions called the police verbal.

* Assisted the successful High Court challenge to return the prisoner right to vote. Were asked to present the case for prisoners before the Senate Inquiry in 2006.

* Hosted the Eleventh International Conference on Penal Abolition ICOPA XI in Tasmania in 2006 and organised it for London in 2008.

* Hosted the defence of those accused of the Hilton Hotel bombing and employed the coordinator of the successful Anderson, Dunn and Alister campaign.

* Initiated the Stop the Women’s Jail Campaign after the government rejection of the 126 submissions against the prison and only Corrective Services for it. Employed Kerry Nettle (later Senator) as the Coordinator.

* In conjunction with TAFE, created a community mentoring course with special modules to address the needs of those in tension with the law. The 22 graduates were mainly ex-prisoners.

* As the only group invited to make an oral presentation to the Senate Inquiry into the Crimes (Forensic Procedures) Act in December 2000, we defended the privacy of human genetic material against the top four experts from the Attorney-General and the Federal Police.

* After the Nagle Royal Commission exposures and government inaction, ran a private prosecution against ten Grafton and Bathurst prison officers and a doctor for 4 months working with law students and thirty two prisoner witnesses.

* Distributed the only questionnaire to prisoners during the NSW Drug Summit 1999 and had six MP crossbenchers write the participation of Justice Action is absolutely crucial to deliberations at the Summit.

* Supervised hundreds of people on community service orders since 1984.

* Worked with Women Behind Bars to successfully change the law on provocation in domestic violence murder cases, around the Bruce and Violet Roberts Blockade.

* Coordinated the NSW Criminal Justice Coalition for two and a half years.

* Facilitated the creation of the Australian Prisoners Union in 1999.

* Successfully defended the prisoners right to vote nationally in 1997, giving the only oral evidence at the Senate Inquiry.

* Part of the initiating committee for the NSW Prisoners Legal Service following the Nagle Royal Commission. 

* Took up a position as a foundation member on the Justice Health Consumer Council monitoring the health of all NSW prisoners.

* Lobbied for the Wood Royal Commission and brought evidence on numerous issues including wrongful convictions and followed for case reviews.

* Consistently pressured the government to control the spread of blood borne communicable diseases in prisons through the immediate availability of condoms, clean syringes and dental dams.

* Justice Action was acknowledged in Parliament by Liberal barrister Jeremy Kinross as consistently standing for truth.

* Coordinated the Justice Action Mulawa Project which saw volunteer law students and solicitors visiting Mulawa Correctional Centre weekly and the circulation of plain English legal/prison issue booklets into Mulawa.

* Held the position as Australian Coordinator for International Prison Watch.

* Initiated recommendations made in the Prison Visitors Survey Report and worked with Corrective Services to propose changes.

* Initiated ex-prisoner Richard Lynott’s case against the government for negligence due to their failure to supply clean needles and syringes in prison, causing his death.

* In conjunction with Pride, Justice Action succeeded in having the KM1 herbal trial available for HIV+ prisoners.

* Justice Action co-hosted the first national conference of Community-based Criminal Justice Activists.

* Initiated the computer project, which had over 100 computers donated to prisons from the corporate and community sector.

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