Off the back of the highly successful Sisters Inside Abolition Now conference, the National Network of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls (National Network) would like to respond to the recent media release by the Justice Reform Initiative calling for South Australia to fund alternatives to soaring prison numbers, as well as the plethora of reports that have been released by the group as to the state of incarceration in this nation.
‘Let’s cut to the chase. Stop wasting our time and stop wasting valuable funding. Stop kneecapping demands by calling for reforms to the prison system, and lets abolish prisons,’ said founding National Network member, Debbie Kilroy.
The reports by the Justice Reform Initiative regurgitate the numbers, statistics and stories we all know intimately. ‘There are whole bookshelves in this country of reports and catalogues of cases and stories after stories of carceral chaos wreaked upon our communities. Nothing that is being pumped out into the world right by this group now is new or revolutionary,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘We must stop wasting funding on new reports highlighting ‘new’ problems. These problems are NOT NEW. This country has had a love affair with incarceration for 233 years,’ said Debbie Kilroy.
As a National Network of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people we also object to a report largely written by people who have not been to prison in South Australia, suggesting that South Australia has taken ‘positive steps’ to address the state’s failing prison system. South Australia’s prison system is not unlike any other prison in this country, and in fact ask any woman who has given birth while incarcerated and had their baby removed from them immediately after because South Australia has no mothers and baby’s unit, and they will tell you that Adelaide Women’s Prison (AWP) is one of the worst women’s prisons in this country. Ask women who have been caged in D Wing (AWP’s solitary cells) wearing nothing but a canvas smock in Adelaide Women’s prison during mental health episodes to see if they feel that South Australia’s correctional services system is ‘improving’. Ask the ageing women prisoners in the Living Skills Unit at AWP whether they think their experience is ‘improving’, ask them if they are getting sufficient health care – because we have – and they aren’t.
However, this isn’t a race to the bottom, because if it was, we’d all lose.
Critically, the Justice Reform Initiative continue to campaign on the line that jailing is failing. They argue it is failing the victims, the ‘offenders’ and it is failing the community. ‘As a National Network, we object to this notion. We find its analysis lazy and offensive,’ said Tabitha Lean. ‘Prisons are working exactly how they are intended, to contain and control certain populations, and they are doing that extremely well’, she said. It is by design that Aboriginal people are incarcerated. It is by www.thenationalnetwork.com.au design that this system targets the poor, the disabled, the unwell and the people living on the margins.
The National Network call upon the South Australian government to develop a policy that works towards full decarceration. We believe that a full abolitionist state can be achieved, and that punishment and exile serves no purpose in a productive society. We would be pleased to meet with the Minister for Correctional Services in South Australia to discuss a strategy and to provide expertise and advice.
The National Network also call upon the state and territory governments to cease commissioning non lived experience managed organisations from producing any more reports which simply replicate decades of data that already exists. Funding these activities only serves to employ more
academics and researchers who make money off the backs of our oppressions and does little to emancipate us from the carceral bonds that still hold us. It is a gross waste of taxpayers’ money. We call on the government to invest in organisations that are led by those who have been incarcerated and are doing the work of abolition, work that has the capacity to free us all.
For comment, please contact
Debbie Kilroy 0419 762 474