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Corrections corrected again

By Steven | February 20, 2013

Let’s admit it up front: running a prison must be a shit of a job. The inmates hardly have a good track record of playing nice or following rules.

For all that, it’s a bad look when our Department of Corrections itself disobeys the law. Which it seems to do routinely. A few years back it set up a comprehensive “behaviour modification” regime that was comprehensively unlawful, for example. I’d be willing to bet that unlawful actions of prison authorities are myriad. They are not especially sensitive to the rights of prisoners.

I keep a weather eye out for the free speech and media cases that come along, where Corrections is invariably slapped down for being more concerned with its own managament or image imperatives than the rights of the prisoners. Here’s another.

Convicted murderer Scott Watson wanted to attend his mother’s funeral, and read a poem. Temporary removal from prison for “the compassionate or humane treatment of the prisoner or his or her family.” Corrections drew up a plan. They concluded they could manage the security risks. But Watson’s application was declined. Why? “There was a signficant concern over media related matters and public perception of the prisoner, as to how he was being controlled and security”.

In other words, though they felt they could ensure public safety, they didn’t like the idea that the public might object to his attendance.

The judge said this was not the point of the legislation, and was an error of law:

I am of the view that the Department of Corrections’ genuine concerns about the likely intense media attention in this particular case, has led to inappropriate consideration being given to the policy that prisoners are exposed to public view as little as possible.

Topics: Department of Corrections | No Comments »


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