Rapid Build Prison Dormitories
The NSW Government has adopted a new concept in prison architecture to allow an urgent response to an unexpected surge in prisoner numbers. This new form of imprisonment, holding 800 maximum security prisoners in dormitories of 25 together, is being constructed without public discussion about the consequences. The CJC has researched the international experience of prisoner dormitories and is concerned that this system raises levels of violence, bullying and fear, with damage to prisoner health and recidivism.
Cubicles in the dormitories will be 3m by 2m with partitions 1.5m high and no door. An increased level of activity will be offered using computers with educational access and potential for email.
The CJC says that an informed public discussion is necessary before they are used.
Here is the Report. Underneath is the media release.
Unacceptable Pressure Cooker Prisons
Media Release 16 November 2017
“The Community Justice Coalition met with Corrective Services NSW on Monday 13th, after expressing grave concern to the Minister about plans to hold 800 prisoners in 25 person dormitories being built at Wellington and Cessnock. We presented them with a Report (link) analysing the effects of dormitory style accommodation on prisoners’ privacy and safety. The Report, based on international experience, shows that this system raises levels of violence, bullying and fear, with damage to prisoner health and recidivism” said CJC President, the Hon John Dowd AO QC.
“CJC had asked for reports that dealt with the psychological and social effects on prisoners held for long periods in such dormitories. Although CSNSW had said the new system had ‘been subject to a robust review process where any problems identified were given full consideration and mitigation strategies put in place where required’, it has not yet provided us with any analysis of this kind” said Mr Dowd. CJC also pointed out that, while there may have been limited local consultation, there had been no consultation with prisoners’ advocacy groups about these highly significant changes.
“Such a major change in the form of imprisonment, not used in Australia’s 200 years’ experience, requires open community consultation. That hasn’t happened and local community groups say they have not been engaged. CSNSW said they talked to Health and the Ombudsman had made comments. They plan to open the Wellington Dormitory Prison on the 16th of December with Cessnock to follow in mid-February 2018. We think an informed public discussion is necessary before they are used” said Mr Dowd.
“It is gratifying that they intend to offer a range of facilities, and an increased level of meaningful activities such as education, including up to four Certificate three TAFE courses per year, using computers with educational access and potential for email and other use. The cubicles will be 3m by 2m with partitions 1.5m high and no door. Although CSNSW intends to provide heightened security, necessary for this configuration, the risks to personal security will be increased; the noise of people in adjacent cells will make distractions necessary for it not to become a pressure cooker for emotionally disturbed people” said former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia, the Hon Elizabeth Evatt AC.
Comments: The Hon John Dowd
The Hon Elizabeth Evatt by arrangement
Party Responses to 2011 Justice Questionnaire
The CJC has released an exclusive analysis of the major parties' policy responses to the 2011 Justice Questionnaire.
Australian Labor Party Response
Liberal Party Response
The Australian Greens
The Australian Democrats
The Socialist Alliance