Last year in Western Australia an ill female prisoner was denied every dignity and carted naked, handcuffed, in the back of a prisoner transport vehicle to a hospital. Last year in South Australian prisons pregnant inmates were still being shackled. Why are common sense, basic dignities and courtesies denied? The prison experience, as Don Dale proved to the nation, in general is one comes out of the prison experience in a worse state than the first day of their incarceration.
Is this what a right minded society would want? Why are we refusing to learn from prison models in other countries where lives are transformed? If you believe in people they will believe in themselves.
Last August a distressed female prisoner was diminished, reduced to the humiliating, transported naked while menstruating from Perth’s Bandyup Women’s Prisons to Graylands Hospital.
It was Dostoevsky who wrote, “The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”
When the prison transport reached Graylands and the door was opened the woman was blood soaked from the menstruating.
Disgracefully seven months later the “investigation” by the “Department of Justice” continues. Investigations, inquiries, and reviews are a dime a dozen and go nowhere fast. It is an indictment of the state government, of every department and agency involved that they have not hurried up the so-called investigation and instead mandated protocols to protect both dignity and wellbeing. Where the outcries from these agencies?
Will the investigation once completed bring about changes?
There were existing policies that were not adhered to. There’s a protocol that requires a mental health responder or a clinical nurse to attend and support prisoners who appear mentally unwell intended for transfer. But this did not happen.
In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly resolved the Mandela Rules, the UN standard of minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. Mandated within these rules is that women should never be shackled during childbirth nor immediately after childbirth. But Australia is yet to adopt the Mandela Rules.
In 2012, a South Australian prisoner had been shackled for five hours while in labour after her first contraction.
In 2013, the Alice Springs Coroners Court heard that 56 year-old Peter Clarke died in Alice Springs Hospital one week after he was due for parole. Till right up near his passing he had been shackled to the hospital bed. There was no history of violence by Clarke. He was the father of nine children who would remember the last days of their father shackled.
In 2012, in Perth another prisoner, Anthony Axtell, was shackled to hospital deathbed. The withered Axtell died surrounded by his mother and father, brother and sister-in-law and toddler nephews. This frail individual who could barely breathe during his last days was till near the end shackled.
Investigations, inquiries, reviews, well we have had enough of these.
Prisons should be transformed to places of positive change, where lives are turned around.
Australia needs only look to Norway’s Bastoy Prison. Bastoy enjoys Europe’s lowest reoffending rate and the highest rate of positively transformed lives. It is a place where its inmates are believed in.
Bastoy inmates live in furnished bungalows with cable television. There are ample recreation opportunities. Bastoy disables trauma.
Bastoy’s “prison guards” are about camaraderie instead of keeping watch. There are no cages at Bastoy. There are no locked doors, no curfews, the inmates go to their bungalows when ready. Bastoy is not some minimum offender prison; home to serious offenders but Bastoy believes in redemption and compassion. It works. Across Europe reoffending is at over 70 per cent while in Denmark, Sweden and Finland the reoffending is 30 per cent, while with Norway, home to Bastoy and similar prisons, the rate is 20 per cent. Bastoy’s is 16 per cent.
The Norwegian penal code has no death penalty and there are no lifers. The maximum sentence is 21 years, providing everyone with some hope.
Bastoy prison has no cells, no bars, no guns, no truncheons and no CCTV cameras. Yet among its inmates are murderers and other violent offenders. Yet the prison boasts no serious incidents.
Bastoy inmates choose how to spend their days, what work they want to do.
In the end the outcomes speak. Treating people with dignity, believing in people works.