Thursday, September 4, 2008

Aussie prison 'breaching human rights'

A CONTROVERSIAL prison unit holding Tasmania's most difficult inmates is being investigated for breaches of international human rights standards.

Tasmania Ombudsman Simon Allston today announced he had started an investigation into the Tamar unit at Hobart's maximum security Risdon Prison.

"I have received complaints that prisoners have been receiving insufficient fresh air and sunlight," Mr Allston told AAP.

"I have been told that they have been held in the unit without any certainty about what they have to do to work their way out of the unit, or any certainty about when they will leave the unit if they behave.

"I will be looking at all of the conditions in the unit and how its 'Behaviour Management Program' are being managed.

"The investigation will examine whether that management complies with Tasmanian laws, international human rights standards, and best practice standards of prison management."

Tamar houses up to eight prisoners in the most secure and strict environment.

Mr Allston said two prisoners, still held in the unit, had been there since it opened two years ago. They were previously held in solitary confinement in the old prison's infamous Division 7.

Mr Allston said he had also been told that the behaviour management used in Tamar was being operated in an arbitrary and unfair manner.

Prison Action Reform lawyer Greg Barns today said poor food, little sunlight and restricted exercise were standard in the unit. Inmates can go without food for more than 15 hours while locked in their cell from 4pm to 7.30am, he said.

Shackled exercise outside the cell is restricted to between one and three hours a day in a yard that is half the size of a tennis court, he said.

"This most restrictive regime has a devastating impact on the physical and mental well-being of inmates and we welcome the investigation," Mr Barns told AAP.

"The community should be worried that this unit is not conducive to rehabilitation, it is counterproductive."

Comment is being sought from Tasmania Attorney-General David Llewellyn.


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