Victory! Line in Sand on Mental Health

We held the line!  News release Sept 25   News report  Statement

After a six month campaign responding to a petition from mental patients held in the Long Bay prison hospital, the government has passed control from Prisons to Health. This acknowledges the rights of mental patients to treatment.

Since April 1 they were locked in cells for 18 hours a day to cut costs, without professional assessment of its impact on the patients. The 9pm lockup was brought back to 3.30 in the afternoon when Corrective Services withdrew twenty eight custodial officers’ positions as part of its mysterious “Way Forward” Plan which hasn’t yet been presented for proper examination. 

custodial officers strike! teachers protest HREOC statement ABCTV exposure


Mental patients have drawn a line in the sand after recent government attacks on their quality of life. Patients under state control are being locked in cells for 18 hours a day to cut costs, and others have lost their right to smoke. These vulnerable and isolated citizens, to whom the state owes a special obligation, are extremely distressed and ask for community assistance. This government behaviour defines us as a community.

Community organisations, Parliamentarians, nurses, teachers and psychiatrists across Australia have joined the defence.

The Iemma government’s arrogance is well defined. On Stateline they openly lied saying the patients wanted it, but ICAC is investigating the coverup.The last time we “drew the line” was for the Prisoners Right to Vote on December 9 2005. See campaign successes. See right to choose.


Fifty mental patients in Long Bay Prison Hospital are suffering due to a cost-cutting decision to reduce time out of cells. This has caused self harm and required extra medication to endure the effects. Yet both Federal and State governments say mental health is top priority. Parliament has before it a condemnatory notice of motion and heard a Parliament speech on June 5. See media release. See analysis of Scott Simpson, Burdekin, law, and history. The patients call for media access. A meeting has been sought with Premier Iemma who was personally involved but he is trying to ignore it. See Herald rept

Contents (items are currently linked to words in the above paragraph, and below)

1. Teachers protest : Federation Media Release – education cut by half – Greens John Kaye media release

2. Notice of Motion NSW Parliament, 3 June 2008, Sylvia Hale – Greens MHA
3. Speech by Sylvia Hale, 5 June 2008 in support of her Notice of Motion
4. Media Release by Justice Action 5 June 2008, in support of Notice of Motion
5. Analysis of law/history by Justice Action referring to:
• Contradictory comments by Premier Iemma
• Directions by NSW Coroner in Scott Simpson case ignored
• UN obligations and statutory obligations ignored
• Relevance of Burdekin Report (1993)
• Proposed meeting with Premier Iemma
6. Answers to questions in Parliament about the new hospitals by then Minister of Health Iemma – October 2004
7. SMH report dated 25-27 April 2008
8. Supporting statements and correspondence from:
• Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Council of Australia
• Mental Health Council of Australia
• The Council of Social Service of NSW
• The Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council
• NSW Nurses Association
• Dr Bruce Westmore, former Director of Forensic Psychiatry, QLD
• Professor Paul Mullen, Clinical Director of Forensicare, Victoria
• Barbara Hocking, Executive Director of SANE Australia
9. Response to Question in Parliament by Minister for Justice -1 April 2008
10. JA Media Releases
• 12 May 2008
• 3 April 2008
• 26 March 2008
11. Petition from Inmates at Long Bay Hospital 16 March 2008

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) has written to the Minister of Justice asking him to intervene.

“International treaties and other human rights instruments to which Australia is party for people with mental illness in the criminal justice system Importantly, people with mental illness in the criminal justice system in NSW have the rights prescribed in international treaties and other human rights instruments to which Australia is party.”

“There is ample evidence of the harm that may ensue from extended periods in isolation for forensic patients and people with mental illness. Both the increased period of lock down and the fact that forensic patients are being housed within general correctional facilities is of serious concern to HREOC. These approaches are contrary to national trends and international treaty obligations.
I therefore ask you to urgently review the conditions of detention and reduce the period of lock down hours for forensic patients during this period of transition to ensure the health and safety of these members of our community with mental illness.” letter May 8 (just released)

The Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA) the peak national non-government organisation representing the Australian mental health sector, conducted its own investigation and has now called on the Minister for an urgent resolution of the issue. “I am aware that several health professionals have indicated that this type of care is in direct conflict with the evidence of good practice in such situations and can have major and deleterious effects on the health of mentally ill prisoners. Apart from the serious human rights issues this raises, this situation also leads to more complex and potentially volatile problems in the system and increases the likelihood of avoidable expensive acute care.” “Isolation is the enemy of good mental health and your Government must take steps to ensure that the health of prisoners under your care is properly managed.” David Crosbie Chief Executive Officer letter June 17.

The Council of Social Service of NSW, the peak body for the non-government human services sector said: “NCOSS believes that the practice of locking inmates in their cells from 4pm until the following morning will have a detrimental impact on the health of inmates as it will result in restricting access to and the delivery of health care to patients. This will be particularly detrimental to inmates with a mental illness, as it significantly compromises the creation of a therapeutic environment. NCOSS further believes these changes are in breach of NSW and International standards for the treatment of people with a mental illness, including the Charter for Mental Health Care in NSW which states that “Every person in NSW has the right to mental health services that provide care in the least restrictive environment”.”

The Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, an independent government body for justice issues affecting Aboriginal people said: “It may be argued increased lockdown periods may be tantamount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Confining vulnerable or ill individuals in their cells from 3:30PM especially during the warmer months, as well as depriving them of health care, it is argued, is harsh and additional punishment to the sentence imposed.” “The AJAC submit an increased lockdown period for an already vulnerable group is not only unnecessary but may very well be more detrimental to their well-being and health.” Linda Crawford, Policy Officer 30/5 statement

NSW Nurses Association General Secretary Brett Holmes said in a letter April 29 (pdf 354k) to Attorney General Hatzistergos, “in our view a cost cutting exercise that imposes such deleterious consequences on the physical and mental health of people in your custody is absolutely unacceptable.” and “There is a wealth of evidence that indicates isolating mentally ill persons exacerbates their symptoms and increases their risk of harm.” Attached is a four page analysis.

Former Director of Forensic Psychiatry for Queensland, Dr Bruce Westmore wrote a letter May 8 (pdf 432k) saying: “There are at times clinical needs which result in a patient being placed into seclusion or being denied access to the ward environment, but if there are no clinical reasons why patients should be secluded, only administrative ones, then that obviously raises concerns. Mentally ill people are vulnerable because of their mental illnesses and even prisoners who do not suffer mental illnesses develop psychological and sometimes psychiatric symptions when they are placed into seclusion.”

Professor Paul Mullen, Clinical Director of Forensicare, Victoria’s peak government forensic mental health authority said 13/5: “The placing of mentally disordered individuals in effective isolation for a large part of the day is likely to be even more potentially distressing and disturbing than it would be to the general prison population.” “In people with serious mental illness an important element in coping with their active psychotic symptoms is the interaction both with mental health staff and with other custodial staff and fellow prisoners.” “The effect of this over any lengthy period is to potentially drive them further and further into their psychotic state.” (pdf 68k)

Barbara Hocking Executive Director SANE Australia

SANE Australia shares the concerns of staff and patients involved, and urges the NSW government to ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talk the talk’ on mental health services for all those who need them, including people who have committed offences due to their illness. (pdf 28k)

Minister for Justice Hatzsistergos responded to questions in Parliament from The Greens MLC Sylvia Hale. He said on April 1, that Justice Health CEO Julie Babineau had been involved in formulating the new model and she had said by letter to Commissioner Woodham that the new model was reassuring to staff. Hatzistergos actually said that “the only available evidence relating to out-of-cells hours is favourable to the new system.” He then referred to locking in MRRC patients earlier too. “I am told that since the inception of these reduced hours there has been a marked reduction in serious incidents.” transcript

Minister Hatzistergos then wrote a letter to Clover Moore on June 5, giving more wrong information. In fact patients are let out at 8.20am, locked in at 11.45 until 12.45 and then in again at 3.40pm. For the past few months they have had no access to the exercise yard and no educational programs as staff have been removed. The wing library has 50 books and there is no TV in the cells, just a sink and toilet.

LINE IN SAND ON MENTAL HEALTH Media release May 12, 2008 “Mental health consumers have drawn a line in the sand after recent government attacks on their quality of life” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

Patients under state control have had their social interaction reduced, and right to smoke removed. These vulnerable and isolated citizens, to whom the state owes a special obligation, are extremely distressed and have asked for community assistance.

The patients at Long Bay Hospital are now locked up at 3.30pm instead of 9pm, to cut costs, although all professional advice is that seclusion of these people will cause mental illness.

Additionally, all mental patients under the Health Department will lose access to the legal drug tobacco. Eighty percent smoke – a pleasure they have controlled since European settlement.

“This is a disgusting example to the rest of the community of bullying of dependent people. It is like the removal of all-day visits from the mothers of Emu Plains. They need to have their arses kicked” said Mr Collins.

The ultimate hypocrisy is that the Federal government nominated mental health as a top priority with an increase of $1.8 billion over 5 years. Premier Iemma said on his appointment (8/05) that mental health was a “light on the hill.” “If I am in this job for a reasonable time and I can’t point to progress in these areas I will judge myself to have failed”.

Mental health service providers, nurses and psychiatrists across Australia have joined the defence of these most vulnerable citizens. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has been briefed for legal action. The patients call for the media with Justice Action to enter the institutions and talk with them.

Today the Right to Choose Alliance, comprising organisations across Australia has launched its website

Madness causing madness in prison hospital

Media release April 3, 2008

“Fifty three mental health patients held at the Long Bay Prison Hospital have from yesterday been locked in cells from 3.30 in the afternoon rather than the normal 9pm” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

“The nurses and prison officers have expressed their extreme concern to Justice Minister Hatzistergos on the effect of solitary confinement and loss of access to therapeutic support for these most vulnerable patients with severe mental illnesses and medical/surgical needs. He fobbed them off on April 1st.”

“The patients will self harm, and become sicker as a consequence. They will be drugged to tolerate the conditions although they have said they will refuse medication as a protest. The patients now call for the media and Justice Action to inspect the hospital and speak with their representatives.”

“This is part of a new regime negotiated with private companies in a PPP that relieves the government of the cost of the new hospital. Twenty-eight prison officer positions have been withdrawn.”

“Health in NSW has reached a new low. This is despite Premier Iemma and the Federal government nominating mental health as its top priority concern. Minister Hatzistergos is the ultimate bully, who against the advice of the experts, imposes the authority of the state on sick citizens who are totally dependent. While he describes the plan as “The Way Forward” he presides over the worst recidivist rate in the country with the victims bearing the cost, and a budget of $1 billion” said Mr Collins.

“Court intervention to compel the government to maintain their duty of care is unlikely to be successful. The NSW Supreme Court this week affirmed its unpreparedness to overturn wrong prison discretionary decisions, when it refused to compel the entry of the prisoner newspaper JUST US. However in Victoria, Supreme Court Justice Bongiorno stopped the “terrorism” trial due to prison conditions”.

Prison hospital lockdown/mental patients madness

Media release: March 26, 2008
“Prison authorities have ordered the removal of 28 officers from the prison hospital area as part of their ironically named “Way Forward”. This will lock patients into cells at 3.30pm instead of the current 9pm from April 2nd” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

All sectors affected are in uproar as a consequence of this projected change before the new hospital opens on May 15. The nurses, prison officers and patients themselves agree that it will be detrimental to their recovery and cause a huge increase in self-harm and suicide. “It is yet another example of unthinking health management and must be reversed”.

The nurses say that they cannot give hospital care under those conditions, and these very vulnerable patients with severe mental illnesses and medical/surgical patients will need to be transferred to general hospitals.
The patients have told the manager that they will be refusing medication from 4pm on 2/4 in support of the petition they have sent to Premier Iemma and Health Minister Meagher if the proposed lock-in times are adopted. They say “if they really want to drive us mad by this early routine, we will help them to go mad by refusing our anti-psychotic medication”.

For comments: Brett Collins 0438 705003, Michael Poynder 0401 371077

PETITION 16-03-08
FROM: Patients/Inmates in Long Bay Prison Hospital (LBH -1)
TO: Justice Action
RE: Unlawful, Inhumane, Oppressive and Irresponsible Conduct and Decision of Commissioner Ron Woodham and Julie Babineau.
C.C. The ICAC, HCCC, N.S.W. OMBUDSMAN, PIAC, HREOC, AUSTRALIAN MEDIA, Ms Jillian Skinner, Ms Reba Meagher, Mr. John Hatzistergos, Mr. Morris Iemma and Mr. Kevin Rudd.

Dear Sirs and Madams;

We the undersigned Patients/Inmates in the Long Bay Prison Mental Hospital would like to desperately request your help and assistance over a very serious and important issue.

Please find the enclosed a copy the “Inmate Notice” {See enclosed Attachment 1} posted in LBH-1 on 15/03/08, by the General Manager, which explains the issue and the situation.

This new daily routine will be more Unlawful, Inhumane, Oppressive, Maddening and Un-therapeutic than it currently is.

This will be barbaric and severe violations of provisions of NSW Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Regulations, 2001 (including but not limited to sections 60(3A), 119(3), 120, 121, 153, 234, 243, 245, 246, 247, and 280(2) and NSW Mental Health Act 2007 (Including but not limited to sections 3, 29, 68, 69, 74, 84, 85, 86, and 105.) and sections 7, 8 and 9 of NSW ICAC Act and section 11 of HREOC Act of Australia and Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are Patients with Patients Rights, Inmates with Inmates Rights and Human Beings with Human Rights, and all these rights are being severely violated by Ron Woodham, Julie Babineau and their dysfunctional and oppressive organisations in the name of Care, Treatment and Control at the expense of NSW and Australian Taxpayers.

Please help to stop Ron Woodham and Julie Babineau.

We will be thankful and grateful for your help.

Yours sincerely,

Signed 41 patients.

Download notices old routine 65k pdf new routine 76k pdf

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