MEDIA RELEASE 6 October 2021
COVID Prisoner Release Court Challenge
“A legal team has been assembled to call for the release of prisoners before the NSW Supreme Court this morning. This follows hundreds of infections, total lockdowns of all prisons and the refusal by Acting Commissioner Kevin Corcoran to release prisoners under the emergency legislation brought in last year for the purpose” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.
“Corrective Services NSW has ignored ATAGI advice on priority vaccinations for prisoners alongside aged care, leaving only 22% protected despite infections in prisons world-wide being six times the general population. They have rejected Health directions and the law on the 4 square metre rule, protection and cleansing items, open air, ventilation, access to family, trusted health care, and critical rehabilitation programs” said Mr Collins.
Barrister Mary Keaney and Matthew Adam supported by others will present the case. It will be adjourned for two weeks.
“Hundreds of anguished families are being represented by 12 plaintiffs in this class action to compel the Commissioner to act on his statement that prisoner safety and wellbeing is his ‘highest concern’. Instead he threatened to not respect the Court process. ‘I am instructed not to file a Notice of Appearance until the defendant has been properly named’. (p.4) That is a provocative invitation considering the emotions being repressed. The Commissioner is claiming no obligation to let prisoners out of their cells into open air at all (p.3)” said Mr Collins.
“It is ludicrous for the Government to say (p.3) “The Commissioner does not presently have the capacity to provide every inmate with a computer tablet.” They have just spent $3.8 billion building new prisons. They promised last year to provide most prisoners with tablets in their cells, with access to phones, whitelisted rehab and education websites. Instead they say that 30 tablets have been provided to the three main remand locations and 50 more by mid October. For 13,000 NSW prisoners” said Mr Collins.
“A NSW private prison governor said last week that money wasn’t an issue for the development of computer tablets in cells but that the ongoing pandemic had preoccupied his highest priorities. Considering education reduces recidivism by 43% and a Premier’s Priority is to reduce recidivism by 5%, this exposes more CSNSW failure to uphold legal obligations to give services to create a safer community” said Mr Collins.
MEDIA RELEASE 22 September 2021
‘Ticking Time Bomb’
Justice for Prisoners during COVID-19 Pandemic
Families and friends of prisoners have commenced legal action in the Supreme Court of NSW to force the Acting Commissioner of Corrective Services, Kevin Corcoran, to safeguard the health and lives of prisoners in his care.
Brett Collins, Co-ordinator of Justice Action on launching the legal action said that “Covid is a ticking time bomb in NSW prisons and the refusal by the Acting Commissioner to implement the measures of the Public Health (COVID-19 Safety) Order 2021 amounts to negligence.”
The legal action, filed on behalf of prisoners’ families, aims to save the lives of those most at risk of COVID-19. Mr Collins said that “Prisoners are at extreme risk of COVID-19, including women, aged and Indigenous prisoners, and those who have chronic and other complex health issues. Many are in dormitories or shared cells, and some have COVID-19 already. These issues not only affect prisoners, but have a direct effect on their families and loved ones.”
The case listed for the 6th of October, calls for the acting Commissioner to use the range of measures available to him to fulfil his duty of care.
Mr Collins said “these measures include early release programs, ensuring the ability to social distance and the provision of adequate open air time and access to tablets in cells”
The claims for relief in the summons are:
ensuring prison cells do not contain more than 1 person per 4 square meters,
granting early parole to prisoners which will help reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 to vulnerable prisoners,
administering COVID-19 vaccinations to prisoner-facing staff,
offering COVID-19 vaccinations to all prisoners,
mandating periods for prisoner recreational time in accordance to health regulations,
and providing all prisoners with computer tablets to facilitate communication with family, friends, legal counsel, or mental health professionals
Brett Collins concluded by saying “during this unprecedented pandemic, the government has taken a number of steps to reduce the risk to the general population. This care needs to be extended to all people, including prisoners.”
Justice Action continues to support families of prisoners fighting for the health and safety of their loved ones.