The Ian Potter Foundation has announced Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, a recipient of their annual international study grant. The grant will enable Ruth to travel to America to learn from cutting-edge organisations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, who are tackling the rise of draconian law and order politics that see more and more people forced into the quicksand of the criminal justice system.
Ruth Barson’s work focuses on advocating for the dignity of people behind bars and challenging punitive criminal laws and policies around Australia. Ms Barson said that while she’s thrilled to have this opportunity to share strategy with and learn from leading American organisations, it’s alarming that in Australia, like America, governments are increasingly hostile towards human rights, paving the way for punitive, lock-em-up agendas.
“Right now, communities across Australia are being torn apart - mothers and fathers are being separated from their families and children are being abused in youth jails, all because our governments have embraced dangerous law and order policies. Australia is at a critical juncture: we can blindly walk down the dark path of mass-imprisonment, or we can commit to respecting the dignity and humanity of all people in our community,” said Ms Barson.
Australian governments now lock up more people than ever before, with women, people with disabilities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hit hardest by discriminatory laws and harmful policies. Ms Barson said that Australian prisons are fast becoming warehouses of inhumanity.
“Archaic and damaging practices like solitary confinement, restraint chairs and routine strip searches should be banished to the dungeons of the dark ages. There’s no place for cruelty in a modern society. Our justice systems should uphold, not undermine, our core values of fairness, dignity and equality’, said Ms Barson.
The Ian Potter Foundation’s International Learning and Development Grant seeks to improve the knowledge of the Not-For-Profit sector in Australia through sharing international best practices learnt by grant recipients while visiting exemplary organisations overseas. Ruth Barson will travel in September and visit a number of American organisations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the Vera Institute of Justice.
“I’m really looking forward to strategising with similar, dynamic organisations fighting for a society that treats all people with decency and respect. The almost bipartisan support for regressive law and order politics in Australia, and indeed other countries like America, must end,” said Ms Barson.