Maximum security detention for terror suspects just adds fuel to the f

8th Jun 2017

Politicians calling to restrict parole for people convicted of terror offences would do better to examine the link between harsh conditions in detention and increasing the likelihood of radicalisation, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

ALA spokesperson Greg Barns said calls to make it more difficult to get parole for a criminal if they had a link to terror ignore the role that ‘high security remand’ plays in fanning the flames of radicalisation in the first place. Suggestions that politicians might seek to be involved in the decision to grant parole were particularly concerning, according to Mr Barns.

“There is likely to be a strong correlation between the circumstances that people charged with terror offences are kept in while they await trial and later radicalisation,” Mr Barns said.

“Placing people charged with these offences in high security remand could be creating the psychological conditions in which radicalisation can take hold.

“The issue is not the parole system, it is the conditions of detention,” Mr Barns said.

“When it comes to terrorism offences there are very few people who have ever been given bail, the bar is set so high.”

“They are often housed in maximum security in prison before they are even found guilty of an offence,” Mr Barns said. “This can mean constant strip searching, spending up to 23 hours a day locked in a prison cell, with little or no access to essential mental health treatment, or support networks.

“It must be remembered that people on remand are presumed innocent unless they are found guilty. If someone on remand is not found guilty, they are then simply released, with no support in dealing with what they have been subjected to in prison. This in itself is risky,” Mr Barns said. ”

Mr Barns said the calls for ‘terror criminals to rot in jail’ are just another example of knee jerk politics. They highlight the dangers of the suggestion by Commonwealth Attorney General George Brandis that attorneys-general should have a say in if or when parole is granted.

“The Australian Lawyers Alliance believes that politicians should have no role in deciding who should be released on bail, especially politically fraught cases such as suspected terrorism crimes,” Mr Barns said.

He said Yacqub Khayre, the man allegedly responsible for this week’s Brighton Siege in which a man was killed and a woman kidnapped, spent 16 months in maximum security in appalling conditions while awaiting trial for terrorism offences in 2010. Khayre was subsequently acquitted of those charges.

“A report by the Victorian Ombudsman confirmed the widely shared view that “there is a correlation between the maximum security prison locations and a higher recidivism rate,” Mr Barns said.  

“The head of the Victorian Adult Parole Board, Peter Couzens, stood by the decision to grant Khayre parole. He was right when he said that abolishing parole for violent offenders would in fact increase the risks to the community.”

“Parole is a means to support people in their reintroduction to the community after time in prison. Without it, people might spend longer in prison, but when their sentence was up they would be released without any support or monitoring,” Mr Barns said.

“If tomorrow’s COAG meeting simply postures about the parole system for violent offenders and terrorism offences and seeks to introduce even more politics into the approach to terrorism crimes, it will have completely missed the mark,” Mr Barns said. 

“Housing terror suspects in maximum security can be a major factor in radicalisation of terror suspects. If politicians want to have an impact on reducing the danger of terrorism to the community, treating everyone in prison, with humanity, whether they are on remand or convicted of a crime, must be the first step.”

Tags: terrorism