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Prison "Peace" To Go Up In Smoke?

Within 12 months the NSW Government says the State’s overcrowded jails will be completely smoke-free but whether a ban on cigarettes will be trouble-free remains to be seen.


It’s often been said nicotine’s addictive elements can be as insidious as heroin, and one only has to consider the millions of dollars spent by health authorities on advertising each year to know this habit is a mongrel to kick.


The incumbent problems of depression and anxiety for the incarcerated and their general stress levels are destined to be heightened soon, with the number of inmates smoking sitting between a staggering 75 and 80 per cent of the prison population.


Attorney-General Brad Hazzard said the smoking ban will be fully enforced by August 2015.


“NSW has substantially cleaned up its act on smoking and now it is time for the same thing to happen inside the prison gates,” Mr Hazzard said.


“Inmates should have the same healthy lifestyle opportunities that those outside enjoy, and take that with them when they return to the community.”


While the Cancer Council applauded the decision I can’t imagine the screws will be relishing the inevitable escalation of day-to-day tensions in the sardine cans of the correctional system.


If the government is serious about replicating the “improved health opportunities” in the wider community it will allow prisoners to be weaned off the darts with the use of patches and other substitutes.


PAROLE


The NSW State Parole Authority has reported a dramatic leap in the number of registered crime victims who influence the conditions under which offenders are placed upon their release from custody.


The number of submissions made by registered victims has almost doubled from 58 to 112.


The Parole Authority, headed by chairman, the Honourable James Wood AO QC, considered more than 12,000 matters in 2013, and the government wants even more registered victims to have a greater say in the supervised reintegration of offenders. Inevitably we will witness the repetition of victims’ impact statements made years earlier at the conclusion of trials, so it’s beholden on the Parole Board to afford due weight to the contemporary reality of a successful offender rehabilitation.


TEXTING SUCCESS


It’s encouraging to see the success of a Justice Department initiative to boost the court attendances of indigenous people.


The of trial of an SMS service to remind alleged offenders of their responsibilities has led to a 20 per cent increase in compliance with bail conditions, and a subsequent reduction in bench warrants. The program will now be expanded to include Taree, Kempsey, Moree, Batemans Bay, Nowra and Wagga by the end of this year.


HELPING FEMALE INMATES


It’s often said there are no votes in prisons so it’s heartening to learn of a new $250,000 mentoring program aimed at cutting the number of women caught in the vicious cycle of recidivism.


The Government is working with the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN), to ensure guidance for at least 50 women who have either been recently released or scheduled for resuming life on the outside.


Part of the program focuses on mothers within the prison system, and how meeting family responsibilities can reduce the odds of reoffending. Women represent around 7 per cent of the total prison population, and most are locked up for less than six months.


WOULD-BE AG NOT A QC FAN


It’s interesting to hear echoes of the Republic debate once led by Federal Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull in a new debate over the retro-branding of senior barristers. The man who would be Attorney General, Labor’s Paul Lynch, has been busy lynching proposals to have the title of Senior Counsel reverted to Queens Counsel.


Mr Lynch, a suburban lawyer from Sydney’s south west, said: “Unless the Government has a role in their appointment, the creation of QCs in NSW is wrong. I do not support the Government reclaiming a role in the appointment of Senior Counsel - and I'd be surprised if the profession did.”


“There is an almost Victorian nostalgia evident in the yearning for the title QC. With recent announcements about knights and dames, the bunyip aristocracy pilloried by Daniel Deniehy appears to want to make a comeback.”


“There seems little rational place for conferring titles like, Sir, Dame or QC in contemporary Australia.”


I’m sure Mr Lynch is happy to have all that off his chest, so maybe he will drop “The Honourable” from his title as a former Minister serving as the MP for Liverpool!


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