Until recently, NSW had seen very few COVID cases in prisons. But that has changed, with Croakey Health Media reporting on Monday that:
"In response to queries from Croakey, NSW justice officials last week confirmed seven (including one staff member) COVID-19 cases in prisons and juvenile justice facilities, the highest number in a justice jurisdiction since the pandemic began, according to international advocacy group Human Rights Watch."
This is of particular concern given the over-representation of Indigenous people in our prisons, coupled with their disproportionate COVID risk. NSWCCL is calling on the government to take urgent action, including:Read more
According to coverage by the Guardian, a refugee who has lived in Bris for a decade, with permanent residency, was given five days to respond to notice of intent to cancel his visa. The issue? He was required to document his identity for his citizenship application, but there's no reliable way to do so.
We have written to the Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, for clarification - we hope to hear that the man's citizenship application has been accepted.
In June 2020, NSWCCL raised concerns about the physical safety of people in prison during the pandemic, given the difficulty of social distancing within a prison environment.
While it is reassuring that, to date, the number of COVID-19 cases in custodial settings has been limited, we remain concerned.
Firstly, we have ongoing concerns about inmate safety and the risk of rapid transmission of COVID should it make its way into prisons. For example, it has been reported to us that in a wing of about 200 at Cessnock, there is no social distancing, inmates do not wear masks, inmates remain unvaccinated and jabs have not been offered to some inmates.Read more
Recent incidents in Sydney indicate that NSW Police don't uniformly understand and respect the role of Legal Observers - that must change.
Police have obstructed Legal Observers; instructed them to direct protestors; directed one to stop filming; and questioned their presence at a protest.
In the absence of any police misconduct, police should have no concerns regarding the presence of Legal Observers or their recording of events.
The NSWCCL is calling for the disallowance of proposed regulations could that could prevent charities from engaging in important advocacy work.
The regulations would allow the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to deregister an organisation if it “reasonably believes” its members are likely to commit a summary offence.
We echo concerns expressed by many charities that the regulations could empower the regulator to deregister a charity for attending or promoting protests where minor offences are committed without the charity's knowledge or involvement.Read more
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties wrote to Senator Marise Payne today calling for urgent action to rescue people employed by Australia in Afghanistan now, without long delays checking on health, security and character.
Comments from our Government that those working through subcontractors are not eligible, or that the Government is following rules drawn up by the previous Labour government, are deeply disturbing.
It's time for action, not political point scoring.
Nearly 18 months after the 'Ice' Inquiry recommended decriminalisation, diversion, and a whole-of-government approach, the NSW Government's Final Response is missing in action.
Meanwhile, community support for a health and education based approach is growing: the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey showed that 57% of Australians supported pill testing, while the most common action supported for people in possession of drugs including amphetamines was ‘referral to treatment or an education program’.
The NSWCCL urges the Government to publish its Final Response as a matter of urgency and to reconsider its opposition to measures that focus on health outcomes. It is time to fundamentally rethink our current approach to drug policy to better reflect our society’s values and expectations. We need an evidence- based approach that prioritises health and education and supports, rather than stigmatising, those affected by drug use.
For more: read our letter to the NSW Attorney General
Though he is not convicted of any offence under UK law, Julian Assange continues to be held as a prisoner in the same conditions as convicted murderers. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Australian Government to bring home Julian Assange and exert its diplomatic influence to end his unjust prosecution.
Similar letters were sent to the Leader of the Opposition and the Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group.Read more
NSWCCL recently joined other organisations and individuals in reaffirming our support for Julian Assange in the context of his fight against extradition to the USA. We spoke at the Assange rally in Sydney in February and subsequently sent a public letter to the Prime Minister urging the Australian Government to take effective action to support Assange in his fight against extradition and assist his return to Australia.
Assange’s situation is desperate and dangerous. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised. He is imprisoned in a London gaol with limited capacity to communicate with his legal team. If he is extradited to the USA, he will face charges which will expose him to a likely outcome of life imprisonment in a high security gaol.
The relentless pursuit of Julian Assange over the last decade has been politically motivated, cruel and unjustifiable. In our view he has not engaged in criminal activity. Assange and wikileaks published truthful information about shocking and wrongful activities - including war crimes - which had been kept secret.Read more
NSWCCL this week has written to Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion and the Prime Minister Tony Abbott calling for the Federal Government to continue its funding of the Custody Notification Service (CNS).
The CNS is a telephone hotline providing personal and legal advice to indigenous people taken into custody. Under NSW legislation it is compulsory for the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) to be notified if an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person is detained, and the CNS is the practical service that allows this to occur. Since its implementation, no indigenous deaths in custody have occurred in NSW/ACT.
CCL previously supported the campaign to 'Save the CNS' in 2013, and it is extremely disappointing that this essential notification service for indigenous people in custody is once again being threatened - particularly in the context of the recent report by Amnesty International that showed Australia incarcerates indigenous children at one of the highest rates in the developed world. It would reflect poorly on the Government's commitment to Closing the Gap and reversing the shameful over-representation of indigenous people in Australia's prisons if the CNS was to cease.
See also: NSW ditches another protection for Indigenous people in custody, The Conversation, 10/06/2015 (Author: CCL member Eugene Schofield-Georgeson)