Editor Mat Nott
Editor Mat Nott

Justice and the rule of prison law

A PRISONER is dead after an incident in Maryborough Correctional Centre and another has appeared in court charged with his murder.

Violent men in close contact with each other are subject to pressures and fears unimaginable to the law-abiding citizen.

Violent acts are to be expected and loss of life occurs.

Prison authorities wrestle with issues of discipline every day. Often outside authorities are called in and offenders find themselves once again before the magistrate.

There are also strict rules within the institution that do not have their base in law but are grounded in the need to tightly control the inmates.

All prisoners are made aware that no violence will be tolerated toward each other or corrective services officers.

If these internal rules are breached, there are consequences that flow and the nature of these depends upon the gravity of the breach.

There is no corporal punishment, so the fallout for misbehaviour takes the form of deprivation of what rights prisoners have left.

These can be loss of telephone rights, removal from study groups or schools and loss of TV.

Or it can mean the prisoner ends up in the detention unit if the behaviour is at the nastier end of the scale. This is a form of solitary confinement.

From what I understand of the functioning of the Maryborough jail, this means that prisoners are isolated from the general population and only allowed out of their cell for an hour a day.

Let's say a prisoner assaults a prison guard and is charged and has to appear before the courts.

The prison authorities act immediately and independent of this. There is no innocent until proven guilty where the prisoner is concerned.

Authorities could not afford to let the prisoner walk around with his chest puffed out after a scuffle with a guard- it would send the wrong messages.

But what then if the prisoner pleads not guilty and defeats the assault charge. He has effectively been punished for a crime he did not commit. It is rare - but is it right?

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