ALA calls for independent prisons inspectorate

18th Jun 2012

The Australian Lawyers Alliance has expressed concern about the case of a woman handcuffed to a South Australian prison bed for up to 20 hours a day.

“This case demonstrates the need for an independent prisons inspectorate in South Australia,” Australian Lawyers Alliance National President, Greg Barns, said today.

“It also highlights a growing issue of human rights abuses in South Australian prisons particularly given the attitude of the Government and Opposition towards prisoners over the last decade,” Mr Barns said.

He said there was an urgent need for the South Australian Government to consider appointing an independent prisons inspectorate who would be able to ensure real scrutiny in the prisons system and that prisoners’ human rights were being respected.”

“The introduction of the Independent Prisons Inspectorate in the United Kingdom, more than a decade ago, led to major improvements in that prison system in both treatment of prisoners and the safe working environment of all those working in that system,” Mr Barns said.

“The case of the mentally ill woman, serving a term for arson and who had been convicted over a number of attacks on prison guards since being jailed, showed the implementation of an independent inspectorate would not only benefit the prisoners, but those charged with caring for them.

"The woman allegedly made about 30 attempts at self-harm, many of them very serious and was obviously in need of greater assistance than she was getting while incarcerated,” he said.

Mr Barns said it was unfortunate that the slavish commitment of politicians to law and order policies during the last decade had created chronic over-crowding and an increase in the incidence of mental illness in South Australian prisons. As a consequence human rights were suffering as well.

Tags: Human rights South Australia