Sisters Inside (2019) Submission by letter to Queensland Parliamentary Education, Employment and Small Business Committee re: Working with Children Bills – Department’s Response, Sisters Inside, Brisbane (3 pages)
Elaborates on Sisters Inside’s opposition to “No Card No Start” provisions of the proposed legislative changes (detailed in our 2018 submission to the Committee). Particularly raises concerns about locating a decision about what constitutes a “serious offence” with individual employers and the risk of systemic discrimination against First Nations people by an increased, narrowly-defined emphasis on compliance.
Examines how the working with children check system individualises violence and fails to contextualise the criminalisation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and associated systemic violence. Advocates for guidelines which embed consideration of culture and empowerment of communities in decisions about the safety and wellbeing of their children.
Addresses key issues raised in their consultation paper including the purpose of sentencing, factors in sentencing (including aggravating and mitigating factors), the sentencing process, reflecting the particular vulnerabilities of children in sentencing, reforms required and the need for community awareness.
Includes detailed evidence – 81 footnotes, 56 references & 9 case studies. Examines the key drivers of imprisonment – poverty, systemic racism, wider systemic failures, prison violence, imprisonment itself, multi-generational harm, remand/parole and service procurement processes. Analyses the economic imperative for change and proposes alternatives to imprisonment based on the success of Sisters Inside programs. Ultimately proposes legislative and policy solutions, based on the available evidence.
Builds on Sister Inside’s 2016 submission to the Queensland Parliament. Responds to specific questions raised by the QLRC in response to proposed legislation to decriminalise abortion in Queensland. Also addresses particular issues affecting marginalised and disadvantaged women including access to abortion for women prisoners and women with disabilities, and cost.
This should be read alongside Sisters Inside’s 2016 submission to the Inquiry into a Human Rights Act for Queensland. This submission proposes that the draft Bill be amended to include a stand-alone cause of action for unlawful breaches; the possibility for complainants to be awarded damages; the ability for adult and child prisoners to make direct complaints to the (forthcoming) Queensland Human Rights Commission; and the right to housing. The Bill should not enable prison expansion through allocation of additional funding to make prisons human rights compliant.
Addresses the risk of corruption within Queensland prisons and demonstrates that the unaccountable exercise of power within prisons both fosters corrupt conduct and makes it difficult to identify corruption. The letter calls for changes to processes, greater transparency and independent oversight in relation to breaches of discipline; use of solitary confinement (both for discipline and ‘safety’); strip searching; use of force and mechanical restraints; and access to employment/services.
Sisters Inside (2017) Submission by letter to Department of Justice and Attorney-General regarding Feedback on Youth Justice (Transitional) Regulation 2017 (consultation draft), Sisters Inside, Brisbane (2 pages)
Outlines feedback on the consultation draft of the Transitional Regulation to transfer 17 year olds from the adult system to the youth justice system in Queensland. Suggestions regarding transfer of hearings, suspended sentences, parole, 17 year olds in adult prisons and language use.
Raises concerns with Opposition Bill to reverse the presumption of bail for certain domestic violence offences and proposal to increase use of electronic monitoring. Identifies issues relating to the increasing criminalisation of women (especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women) for breaches of domestic violence protection orders.
Sisters Inside (2017) Submission by letter to Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee regarding Corrective Services (Parole Board) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2017, Sisters Inside, Brisbane (5 pages)
Comments on legislation to implement the creation of a single Parole Board for Queensland, as recommended by the Queensland Parole System Review. Recommends further provisions to enhance natural justice and transparency of the Parole Board’s decision-making. Recommends repeal of provisions relating to GPS monitoring. Raises concerns that GPS monitoring is an intrusive process that does not actually prevent people on parole from committing further offences.
Raises concerns about implementation of such a scheme in Queensland, particularly in terms of lack of resources for women to live safely in the community, women’s disinclination to report violence to police and the impact of gender-blind domestic violence legislation in Queensland.
Sisters Inside (2017) Response to The next chapter in child protection legislation for Queensland: Options Paper (Department of Communities, Child Safety & Disability Services), Sisters Inside, Brisbane (9 pages)
Examines the failure of proposed solutions to address intersections between the child protection, criminal law and other government systems. Particularly focuses on the importance of addressing harm of children at the hand of the state; systemic failures in areas such as health, education and housing; serious ongoing systemic failures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; the central role of Indigenous-controlled organisations; the failure of discriminatory blue card requirements to protect Indigenous children; abolition of residential care; women and children’s right to natural justice and procedural fairness, including independent legal support and advocacy at all levels of the system; and the importance of independence of non-government service providers.
Demonstrates that current laws and processes for protecting human rights in Queensland have been manifestly inadequate in protecting the human rights of criminalised women and their children (as evidenced by failure to implement recommendations of the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland Women in Prison report). Strongly supports introduction of a Human Rights Act (HR Act) in Queensland, which includes the capacity to determine and remedy breaches of human rights.
Addresses the 8 proposed legislative changes related to eligibility for parole, court-ordered parole (including an option to abolish court-ordered parole), pre-emptive cancellation of parole, mandatory non-parole and judges’ discretion in sentencing.
Examines the importance and role of peak bodies in the community services sector and the unique contribution of YANQ to addressing the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised young people.
Sisters Inside (2016) Submission by letter to Queensland Parliamentary Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee re removal of abortion from the Queensland Criminal Code and the principles underpinning the Abortion Law Reform (Women’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016, Sisters Inside, Brisbane (3 pages)
Strongly supports the decriminalisation of abortion and associated draft legislation. Makes a series of assertions about the benefits of law reform and addresses common myths associated with legalised abortion. Argues that inconsistent access to safe, legal terminations (including for women prisoners) is just one example of the many human rights of criminalised women which are currently being routinely breached in Queensland.
Includes detailed evidence (87 footnotes), and is further informed by interviews with 6 young women. Focuses on girls and young women in Queensland's youth and adult prisons, in particular the over-representation of disadvantaged (particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) girls and the nexus between the child protection and justice systems. Raises concerns about the age of criminal responsibility, the high rates of imprisonment on remand, and the ongoing use of strip searching, restraint, isolation and other forceful ‘behaviour management’ tools. Calls for independent and transparent oversight and complaint mechanisms and evidence-based community-based transition support programs.
Includes detailed evidence (54 footnotes). Recognises that if “community safety” is the fundamental objective of parole, it is not achieved by returning women to prison without review for systemic failures. Makes evidence-based recommendations about the processes required to assess risk and release women in a manner that optimises community safety and reduces recidivism. Also focuses on the review and oversight mechanisms required to ensure an equitable and effective parole system.
Draws heavily on the independent evaluation of the (2007-2010) Sisters Inside Special Circumstances Court (SCC) Program, which was highly successful in diverting women from prison and the evaluation of SCC more widely by the Australian Institute of Criminology. Identifies critical success factors of the former SCC, and critiques its’ replacement (the Queensland Court Referral service). The submission raises serious concerns about the capacity of the reinstated program as proposed in the Discussion Paper to meet increased demand with reduced resources – and strongly opposes extension of the SCC to people not living with serious disadvantage (particularly men charged with domestic violence-related offences).
Details concerns about operation of the child protection system, fundamentally, the failure to treat removal as a last resort and to meet mandated timelines. Women prisoners report significant barriers to providing breast milk to babies removed at birth and maintaining their relationship with their child(ren), including a failure to inform mothers about the whereabouts of their child(ren) or involve them in decision-making. Post-release, women report inconsistent and unfair responses when seeking to visit or retrieve children from state care.
Focuses on 3 major issues – the level of child safety service delivery to women prisoners whose children are in state care; the increasing criminalisation of children in care (particularly residential care); and the pathway between the child protection and adult criminal justice systems.
Responds to a paper produced by the Office of the Public Advocate and the Queensland Law Society, Elder Abuse: How well does the law in Queensland cope? Analyses current legislation in relation to physical, sexual, financial, psychological abuse and neglect, and provides a detailed outline of successful Californian legislation in these areas.
Includes some evidence (30 footnotes). Provides commentary on the purpose and function of the Act, including causes/perpetuation of DFV; the nexus between DFV and women’s criminalisation; and barriers to safety for women and children. Responds to specific consultation paper questions related to civil and criminal approaches, victim protection, perpetrator accountability and systemic management. Provides a detailed account of international human rights instruments which should be address in a new Act.
Focuses on concerns about proposed relocation of women (away from family and community) in remote work camps, without any commitment to improved quality of education or work.
Includes detailed evidence (61 footnotes). Details the national and international evidence on causes and consequences of youth crime and criminalisation, and provides 2 international case studies. Proposes strategies to address core problems with the existing act, including underpinning values, and argues that criminalisation and imprisonment of young people does not serve anyone’s best interests. Proposes a proportional response to youth crime and a more sophisticated approach to child protection. Comments on specific provisions including 17 year olds in adult prisons; sentencing and diversionary options; accountability; remand levels; options for Indigenous young people and community reintegration
Addresses rehabilitation and reintegration; health and medical services; prisoners with ‘special needs’; immigration detainees; security classification; solitary confinement; routine and mandatory strip searching; Corrective Services Advisory Council; procedural fairness; official visitors and inspectors; accommodation of children; visits; and community release. Includes 24 recommendations.
Following Submission 1, the ADCQ commenced an investigation. This submission provided additional details in all the areas covered in Submission 1. It also detailed severe curtailment of Sisters Inside’s ability to provide services inside women’s prisons as a direct result of the complaint, and proposed recommendations for consideration by the ADCQ. (Led to the 2006 Women in Prison report.)
Kilroy, Debbie (2004) Submission of Sisters Inside to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner for the Inquiry into the Discrimination on the Basis of Sex, Race and Disability Experienced by Women Prisoners in Queensland, (June), Sisters Inside, Brisbane (45 pages)
Includes detailed evidence (67 footnotes). Followed an unsuccessful formal request to the Department of Correctional Services in 2003, to undertake a broad-based review on the treatment of women prisoners in Queensland. Requests that the ADCQ conduct an investigation into direct and indirect systemic discrimination against women prisoners on the basis of sex, race, religion and disability. Particularly focuses on discrimination through the classification system; limited low security beds; limited access to conditional and community release; limited access to programs, work and health care; strip searching; and use of segregation. (Led to an ADCQ investigation, detailed in the 2006 Women in Prison report.)
Focuses on imprisonment of 17 year olds in adult prisons, and proposes that Queensland adopt recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission on this matter, and national standards for juvenile justice.
Prisoners Legal Service and Sisters Inside (2000) There's More to It: A response to the Women's Policy Unit needs analysis - The needs of women offenders (Department of Corrective Services) authors, Brisbane (73 pages)
Includes detailed evidence (80 footnotes). Addresses the gendered assumptions and practices underlying imprisonment of women, and puts the case against imprisoning women. Details the issues and needs of mothers and their children, and of Indigenous and CaLD women, at all stages of the criminal justice system. Examines a variety of health-related issues including strip searching, self-harm, domestic and family violence, substance abuse, separation and loss and the impact of prison crisis response practices. Also addresses sentence management, education, programs, work, and advocates for improved transition support including gradual release and parole.