Reinstate visits for loved ones in VIC correctional centres

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Copied from the NSW petition beautifully written by Nicola Haslegrave

Australia has been highly successful in 'flattening the curve'. The number of new COVID-19 cases in Australia each day is now very low - in fact so low, we have recorded zero new cases of Covid in NSW in the last 12 days.

Restrictions have started being lifted, so much so we can now eat at restaurants or even go to the pub or gym. So why are there still no signs of easing the restrictions allowing us to visit our loved ones in correctional centres across NSW??

Week after week we are seeing more episodes of violence and unrest within the correctional centres - we can already see the negative impacts that removing visitation rights for inmates has caused. How many more of our loved ones have to end up in hospital due to violence within correctional centres, before we see the lifting of these restrictions?  

Society is becoming increasingly punitive. The prison population is constantly growing, and sentences are becoming longer. The justice system has come to rely on imprisonment as the default method of punishing offenders, while prisoners are seen as inherently bad people who deserve all the pains they receive as part of their punishment.

As a result, it has become very easy to just accept the negative impact of imprisonment on prisoners’ families.

Prisoners’ family links are important because positive, stable family relationships are directly linked to less re-offending. So greater support for family links could benefit all of society. Prisons are in turmoil. Levels of prison violence have skyrocketed since 2015, and prison suicides are at their highest since records began. Yet research has also shown that more frequent family contact is associated with reduced prison misconduct. Greater support of family contact would also be good for the prison system.

Prisoners’ family relationships should be recognised and supported. After all, we chose imprisonment as a key method of punishing crime. We can also choose not to punish their spouses and children. Instead, working with the prison institution, appropriate value can be placed on another institution which, in most contexts, is seen as being key to leading a good life – the family.

"Maintaining family ties has real benefits for prisoners and their families.prisoners who keep in close contact with family are less likely to reoffend once they’re released, do better on parole and have better mental health. Families also benefit
from better mental health, and better family relationships when the prisoner returns home. It’s easy for prisoners to become institutionalised, meaning that they can’t cope without the structure of a correctional centre. Keeping in contact with families helps maintain an identity as a partner, friend, brother, sibling or parent. Family ties remind the prisoner that they’re more than just an ‘offender’ and help them stay
focused on the roles they can play beyond the correctional centre. Away from home and loved ones, it’s easy for prisoners to believe that people will stop caring about them.This can produce feelings of isolation,hopelessness and despair. Regular visits
and letters from family are important reminders to prisoners that there are people on the outside who love and care for them.
Keeping in contact also means familycan assist prisoners in planning for
the future, and supporting them after release."

- The Families Handbook - CorrectiveServices.justice.nsw.gov.au https://www.correctiveservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/Documents/Related%20Links/library/legal-portal/family-law/families-handbook.pdf

 

"It is an important reminder that they are more than 'a prisoner'. Maintaining family ties through visits is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism. Visits keep families together and potentially prevents family-breakdown. Visits and the maintenance of family ties can help prevent intergenerational offending"

 

If we can apply social distancing measures to allow people to gamble and drink alcohol - surely the same social distancing measures can be applied to visits to allow inmates and their loved ones the basic human right of family contact.