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The NSW criminal justice system has undergone numerous reforms; however, not all reforms have been beneficial for prisoners or society. In recent years, what has emerged is a criminal justice system that focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation and deterrence, and neglects the rights of the prisoner.
In 2009, the idea for the coalition came to mind by Joan Bielski, an 85yr old woman and long time activist focusing on equal opportunities for women in employment, education and public life. After initial discussions, a non-profit organisation was created to ensure complete independence from governing bodies so that their interests and integrity would not be compromised.
A letter outlining the failures of the current criminal justice system and purpose of forming a coalition was sent to prominent figureheads based on their past records of community service. This included a Federal Attorney General, Chief Judge of the Family Court, State Attorney General, and Chair of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council. A meeting was then held with various members sharing their thoughts and experiences with the criminal justice system. There was a common concern that the current system has failed to provide adequate care to ensure that prisoner’s rights are acknowledged.
Since then the CJC has lobbied extensively to improve the current state of NSW prisons and criminal justice system as a whole. The key issues include: the failure of ‘law and order’ campaigns to reduce the level of crime in NSW, the human rights abuses with prisons, the lack of educational and rehabilitation programs in prisons, the privatisation of prisons, the treatment of prisoners diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and the lack of available community services that prevent crime and keep people out of gaols.