Rights of People in Prison
Children in the Northern Territory will be better protected from Don Dale-like abuse behind bars with the Gunner Government today passing landmark laws that will prohibit harm to children. The laws will solidify key recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
After a week of intense negotiations, the Western Australian Government has avoided urgent Supreme Court action by allowing a newborn Aboriginal baby to remain with her mother.
Statistics released this week reveal the Gunner Government is sending more men and women to prison than ever before – a direct result of Chief Minister Gunner’s failure to repeal mandatory sentencing laws.
A report released by the Independent Inspector of Custodial Services has detailed horrific conditions and treatment in Western Australia’s only youth jail, Banksia Hill. The Inspector has called on the McGowan Government to take urgent action.
A damning Victorian Parliamentary report into youth justice released yesterday shows the Andrews Government is harming children in its care by forcing them into solitary confinement.Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that starving a child of human contact is one of the most damaging things we can do and the Government should prohibit it outright.
One day after the Northern Territory Government gave an in principle promise to raise the age of criminal responsibility, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has released data painting a diabolical picture of punitive and out-of-date youth justice systems across Australia.
The Northern Territory today became the first government to commit to raising the age at which children can be charged and sent to prison.
The closure of the NT's notorious Don Dale youth prison couldn’t come soon enough, but the Turnbull Government needs to help fund the creation of safe, home-like facilities built for children to replace it.
The Federal Government has completely failed to lead in its response to the Northern Territory Royal Commission’s report on how to fix failing youth justice and child protection systems.Shahleena Musk, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the Federal Government was trying to wash its hands of responsibility at the very time it needed to show leadership to fix broken youth justice systems across Australia.
Australian Governments must prohibit the solitary confinement of children in detention and closely regulate practices that can result in the forced isolation or segregation of a child. So what is solitary confinement?
The Australian Government has ratified an important UN torture prevention treaty. The Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) is a mechanism established to prevent cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in places of detention.
Women in Victorian prisons are being regularly and routinely subjected to degrading strip-searches and the Government should end the practice. Speaking at the launch of a new report, the HRLC's Ruth Barson said being forced to remove every last item of clothing again and again, strips women of dignity and of hope.
The Victorian Ombudsman has released a critical report highlighting ‘humiliating, degrading and undignified’ strip search practices in a Victorian women’s prison. The report shows Victoria is breaching human rights standards by subjecting women to routine strip searches, extended solitary confinement and excessive use of restraints.
Following Universal Children’s Day, doctors, lawyers, health and human rights experts from across Australia are calling for the age when children can be held criminally liable to be raised to at least 14 years so that primary school aged children are not entangled in the criminal justice system.
“The Royal Commission laid bare the devastating cost of removing children from their families and locking them away behind bars. Prisons fail children," said Shahleena Musk.
Australia was condemned overnight by a UN Human Rights Committee for its human rights record on a range of issues including refugees, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ rights, youth justice and democratic freedoms.
Adrianne Walters, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that state and territory criminal justice systems are out of balance and that governments around Australia have a responsibility to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities to stem the number of people being sent to prison.
More examples of the serious mistreatment and harm to children in Australian youth detention centres have been detailed in damning reports from Western Australia’s independent Inspector of Custodial Services and Queensland’s Youth Detention Inspectorate.
The Northern Territory Government has been ineffective in its response to child offending and is failing to make communities safer, the Human Rights Law Centre told the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director with the Human Rights Law Centre told the Parliamentary Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria that the Victorian Government has an opportunity to rebuild a safe, humane, age-appropriate youth justice system.
The over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a growing national crisis that is being overlooked by all levels of government in Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and Change the Record said in a new report. HRLC's Adrianne Walters said, “The tragic and preventable death of Ms Dhu is a devastating example of what happens when the justice system fails Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
The Victorian Supreme Court this morning ruled that detaining children at the Barwon maximum security adult prison was unlawful and prohibited the Victorian Government from continuing to detain children there.
The Victorian Supreme Court will decide tomorrow whether the Victorian Government breached the law in moving children to the maximum security adult prison at Barwon. Human Rights Law Centre lawyers to hold a doorstop press conference shortly after the court session has concluded.
Over 80 recommendations have been made to bring the Queensland youth justice system in line with international law and to respond to the individual developmental needs of each child. the review reminds us that just because a child is incarcerated, their human rights and entitlements must not be ignored.
The Victorian Government told the Supreme Court last December that its sole justification for locking kids up in a maximum security adult prison was the lack of capacity due to the damage at Parkville. Yet now the Government has admitted that even when those 60 beds are fully repaired next month, it’s going to continue to keep kids at Barwon until August or September.
MEDIA ALERT: DOOR STOP PRESS CONFERENCE
9:15am Monday 3 April 2017
On the steps of the Victorian Supreme Court, 210 William St, Melbourne
with the Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director Hugh de Kretser
Tomorrow the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory will release its interim report into systemic abuses and mistreatment of children in youth prisons.
On 30 March 2017, the Herald Sun published a story about our Supreme Court challenge against the Victorian Government to stop the use of Barwon prison to detain children. The story includes a letter written by one of our clients.
The Commission for Children and Young People released a scathing report, The Same Four Walls, detailing widespread isolation of children in Victoria’s youth justice centres. "You can’t respond to inadequate staffing levels by just leaving kids locked up in the cells for hours on end. It’s time for the Victorian Government to stop taking short cuts and to start properly resourcing the youth justice system," the HRLC's Alina Leikin.
The Victorian Government must address the underlying causes of damaging incidents in youth justice centres including staffing and lockdowns, the Human Rights Law Centre has said in a submission to a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry
We need to rethink a system that is funnelling people into harmful prisons as the default response, writes Shahleena Musk.
How we treat people in prison matters not just because most will be released back into the community, but because we are all diminished the moment we start picking and choosing who is deserving of dignity, writes Ruth Barson.
How children could be left to languish in solitary confinement; how the abuses in Don Dale went unchecked for so long before journalists and advocates exposed a system rotten to its core.This Friday Australia will be provided with answers.
Youth justice in Victoria is at the crossroads. The Supreme Court has ruled, yet again, that it was unlawful for the Victorian government to lock up children at the state’s most notorious maximum security adult jail.
Mandatory sentences are not the right tool for reducing crime, writes our Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, following the misguided policy announcement from Victoria's Opposition Leader.
Just a day after Victoria’s highest court confirmed the government acted unlawfully in detaining children at the Barwon adult prison, the Minister has tried yet again to keep them there. The government is spending extraordinary resources defending the indefensible – jailing children in the state’s most notorious adult prison.
There is indeed a crisis in Victoria's youth justice system. It is not one, as the Government suggests, of available beds or suitable facilities – these things are imminently fixable with a dose of political will. Rather, the crisis is one of a myopic outlook and a merciless attitude: a willingness to countenance cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Brutal images of Aboriginal women and children being mistreated in custody are a defining feature of 2016. From Dylan Voller and the young detainees of Don Dale to Ms Dhu, Australians have been forced to reckon with the cruel reality of Australia's over-imprisonment crisis.
I've just returned from Barwon maximum security adult prison. I found myself squatting on the floor to talk to one of our clients – a 16-year-old child – through the trapdoor to his cell. The tight steel opening so small I could only see his anxious eyes. He is being held in solitary confinement; pacing his cell, uncertain when he will be let out. He hasn't seen the sky since Thursday.
We need to get to the bottom of what went wrong with the riot at the Parkville Youth Justice Centre. We don’t need lazy, kneejerk populist responses, like transferring kids to adults jails, which are designed to sound tough on crime and which in fact will only make things worse.
In his words
Throughout the case, we worked to make sure the voices of our clients were heard The Herald Sun published the following story about our Supreme Court challenge against the Victorian Government to stop the use of Barwon prison to detain children. It includes a letter written by one of our clients. Click here to read the full letter.