Prisoner amnesty urged

MEDIA RELEASE 16 July 2009

Prison Reform Group of Western Australia

Attorney General Christian Porter should give consideration to a prisoner amnesty similar to
that proposed by New Zealand’s Chief Justice as a way to stem the rising prison population.

Dame Sian Elias, who’s had more than 40 years in the criminal justice field, recently told the
NZ Law Society that she accepts “retribution is a proper response for serious crime” but
that “all the evidence and informed opinions seem to point to the futility of believing that
the causes of crime can be addressed by penal policy and the criminal justice process…
Penal policy is largely irrelevant to reduction of crime and making our communities safest”.

Citing a cost of $100,000 a year for keeping an offender in prison versus $10.04 for
maintaining someone on a community based sentence (NZ figures) Dame Sian went on to
say that “reducing sentence levels would reduce the prison population, not only by cutting
the length of prison terms but also by bringing more sentences within the bounds set for
community-based sanctions, including home detention”.

Suggesting the use of “direct tools to manage the prison population”, Dame Sian noted that
“other countries use executive amnesties to send prisoners into the community early to
prevent overcrowding.

“If we are not prepared to relax the pressures to contain risk in the discretionary decisions
as to bail and parole, the only other immediate options may be to confront the length of
sentence (effecting an overall reduction in sentence)… and early release amnesty,’ Dame
Sian concluded.

This is a view endorsed strongly by WA’s Prison Reform Group, which today called on Mr
Porter to give consideration to an executive amnesty for all prisoners with less than six
months left to serve on their sentences and for all women currently held in the Boronia pre-
release facility.

“Such a move would release the immediate pressure on WA’s overcrowded prisons,” noted
Group spokesperson Rex Widerstrom. “It would free up places at Boronia for women
currently held at Bandyup, and at the various low-security prisons and prison farms for male
prisoners confined in high security at Casuarina, Hakea and similar facilities.

“While it is the government’s duty to do what it can to prevent crime, as Dame Sian notes
the length of sentences actually has little or no effect on community safety.

“So against Mr Porter’s desire to be seen to take a vote-winning stance as ‘tough on law ‘n’
order’ must be balanced the huge social costs of being unable to build hospitals and schools
whilst the money is spent on more prisons.

“Many governments have provided amnesty at the lower end of the security scale without
incurring some sort of ‘rising tide of crime’ on their streets,” Mr Widerstrom noted. “We’re
not talking about releasing violent criminals who’ve done little or no rehabilitative work in
prison. We’re focusing the call for an amnesty on low security prisoners with exemplary
behaviour records whilst in prison, with six months or less to serve.

“The Attorney General clearly likes to be perceived as taking a tough stance on crime.
Tough it may be, but it’s clearly not effective” (see figures below).


The March quarter 2009 national average daily imprisonment rate was 167 prisoners per
100,000 adult population. Western Australia reported a rate of 241 per 100,000 adults. And
that figure is rising, not falling, despite the present government’s stance.

Western Australia First Thursday July 2009 First Thursday July 2008
Total in prison 4419 3780
Sentenced 3711 2998
Remand 689 761
Aboriginal & TSI 1787 (40.4%) 1551
Women 341 275

Total in Juvenile Detention 144 166
Sentenced 84 79
Un-sentenced 60 87
Aboriginal & TSI 112 (77.8%) 125 (75.3%)
Young Indigenous 104 males 8 females
Young non-Indigenous 29 males 3 females

Contact: Rex Widerstrom 0400 133 854
or: Dr Brian Steels 0419 907 016

Link to original story (including a downloadable copy of Dame Sian’s speech):




Anti Northern Territory Intervention protest moves from Minister Jenny Macklin's Electorate office in Heidleberg, Victoria round the corner to the Centrelink office where Barbara Shaw from Mt Nancy Town Camp, Alice Springs in the Northern Territory is unable to access her low income due to the racially discriminatory welfare quarantining of Aboriginal Peoples' income in the NT.

SOS Students of Sustainability demonstrate with Barbara Shaw in support of Aboriginal Peoples living under the racist NT Intervention.

Victorian police brutality breaks up the non violent protest in Centrelink ...



Voices from the frontline: Pacific Islands speakers tour

During July hear first hand accounts of the impacts of climate change on our Pacific neighbours. Oxfam and Greenpeace have combined to bring local leaders from the Pacific nations of Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) to Australia for a series of public meetings.

"The future of Kiribati is in our hands - we work very hard each year to support and help students to be successsful. But what is the future of our children when our country is being threatened by global warming?"

– Pelenise Alofa Pilitati, a speaker on the tour from Kiribati

All three of these low-lying island states are in grave danger from climate change. Sea level rise, tidal surges, salination of crops and fresh water, coral bleaching and loss of fisheries are already affecting these countries. Some Pacific islanders have also been forced to relocate because of climate change.

The realities of climate change in the Pacific underscore the urgent need for a global agreement on climate change. It is not too late to ensure that the Pacific has a future. To do this the Australian government must take strong action and commit to cut greenhouse emissions by 40% by 2020. To assist the Pacific and other developing nations to deal with the unavoidable effects of climate change the Australian government must commit to pay our fair share into a UN fund to assist developing nations cut their emissions and adapt to climate change.

Dates and Venues

When: Thursday 23 July, 7 – 8.30pm (registration from 6.30pm)
Where: Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney
Speakers: Reverend Tafue Lusama and Pelenise Alofa Pilitati

When: Tuesday 28 July, 6.30 – 8 pm (registration from 6pm)
Where: Brisbane City Hall, Brisbane Room
Speakers: Marstella Jack, Reverend Tafue Lusama, Pelenise Alofa Pilitati, Sam Reuben (Torres Strait Islands) and John Kris (Chair, Torres Strait Regional Authority)

When: Thursday 30 July, 6.30 – 8pm
Where: Melbourne Town Hall, Supper Room
Speakers: Marstella Jack, Reverend Tafue Lusama and Pelenise Alofa Pilitati

When: Sunday 2 August, 4 - 5.30pm
Where: TBC

Other climate change talks

Solving the Climate Crisis Talk
When: Saturday, 25th July, 1pm
Where: Theatre G, Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney
Speakers: John Hepburn and Pelenise Alofa Pilitati
The talk is free with general entry to the Museum. General entry is $12 (adults) and $8 (concession).

The Perfect Storm - Australia's role in dealing with the triple crunch of the global financial crisis, climate change and rising food prices
ALP Conference Forum by Oxfam Australia and the Centre for Policy Development
When: Friday 31 July, 6 – 7.30pm
Where: Sussex Room, Crowne Plaza, 150 Day Street, Darling Harbour, Sydney
Speakers: Sharan Burrow, Andrew Hewett, Reverend Tafue Lusama, Ian Dunlop and Ben McNeil

The speakers

Pelenise Alofa Pilitati - Chairperson Church Education Director's Association in Kiribati (CEDAK), Managing Director, Kauaoki Foundation Enterprise, Kiribati

Pelenise says that climate change is about survival for the people of Kiribati. "The future of Kiribati is in our hands - we work very hard each year to support and help students to be successsful. But what is the future of our children when our country is being threatened by global warming?"

Reverend Tafue Lusama - Chairperson Tuvula Climate Action Network, Program Secretary Church of Tuvalu Dept Peace and Justice, Pastor, Christian Church of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu has already seen significant internal relocation of citizens as a result of climate change and could be the first nation in the world to disappear because of rising sea levels. Reverend Tafue is a compelling advocate for action on climate change.

Marstella Jack - Former Attorney General, Federated States of Micronesia

Marstella has recently returned from the United Nations Intersessional meeting on climate change that took place in Bonn. She is acutely aware of why these global negotiations are so important for Pacific nations.

How you can help

source: http://www.oxfam.org.au/campaigns/climate-change/take-action/pacific-speakers-tour/

We hope that these series of community forums will generate enough public support and media interests, leading up to the Pacific Islands Heads of Government Meeting in Cairns (Australia) in August, 2009.

Please forward this to your friends and networks.
Thank you for your support