The Community Justice Coalition (CJC) is a non-government organisation of organisations and individuals formed in 2009 to advocate for specific reforms in the NSW Justice and Prison Systems.
The CJC was formed in 2009 following decades of media driven “law and order” campaigns, resulting in a huge growth in the prison population, the many new prisons, privatisation of prisons, the over representation of indigenous, illiterate and mentally ill people in prison, the inadequate rehabilitation services and the huge increases in expenditure on incarceration without an equal growth in the crime rate and a growing lack of transparency in the governance of prisons.
CJC strives for an educative and restorative, as well as punitive prison system. CJC also aims to ensure better results for financial investment, community safety and fairness in a public prison system.
The CJC has informed itself of current government policies on prisons as the basis for mounting pressure on government and highlighting deficiencies and social and financial costs associated with the prison system. Political parties have been and will continue to be pressed for comment on issues for reform and asked to actively consider any corresponding infrastructure and budgetary implications. CJC also actively questions government budget fluctuations in funding for rehabilitation programs for prisoners.
CJC works in collaboration with other interested bodies such as those involved in crime and justice reform and bail reform, which are often constituted by expert academics, lawyers and retired Judges with long-serving experience in the criminal justice system.
The CJC continues to host various seminars on topics on prisons and prisoners raised in government elections. Relevant issues canvassed to attract awareness to the plight of prisoners are human rights in prisons as a basis for reform agendas; lack of education in prisons, juvenile justice, refugees in prisons, mental health and indigenous issues. The CJC issues press releases to publicly emphasise its priorities and concerns for the current prison system in these areas.
CJC maintains the view that mental health in prisons is a particular issue that requires significant promotion. There needs to be an examination of the relationship between Justice Health, primary carers and the Mental Health Review Tribunal. Prison patients are often treated in highly restrictive environments and are often medicated involuntarily.
CJC plays lobbyist to government for inquiries into prisons by the State and Federal Law Reform Commissions with the aim to ensure compliance with United Nations protocols and reports on prisons, with a special emphasis on indigenous prisoners. Prisons need to be effective in rehabilitating prisoners and outlaid costs need to produce effective achievement of professed goals in this area. There is also a need for independent inspection procedures for prisons to ensure adequate provision of personal necessities to protect basic human rights.
CJC strongly encourages government to take up issues for reform arising from these inquiries in parliamentary question and debate sessions as a necessary part of addressing the criminal justice system.
CJC also is a monitor of independent reports and recommendations and subsequent government responses affecting prisoners. CJC is a strong supporter of legislated mandatory responses of government on recommendations on the health of prisoners generally and on people with cognitive and mental health impairments in the criminal justice system. CJC also strongly endorses recommendations for reform to the juvenile justice system, juveniles being greatly overrepresented in detention. Such inquiry and study reports including recommendations for reform are open to broader public comment, which is an important part of the reform process. CJC also monitors international reports involving promotion and protection of human rights, civil, political, economic and cultural rights, including the right to development and the right to education of persons in detention and these are incorporated into government submissions.
The CJC continues to be progressive and invites experts to provide further information to its executive and membership on these eternal areas of special interest and also on emerging topics such as needle exchange programs in prisons. CJC also consistently monitors relevant Court and Tribunal hearings and decisions which raise issues of concern for the criminal justice and prison systems.