Some quotes from interviews conducted in the research for this report.
… a lot of inmates have done the get rich quick thing. Sold drugs, whatever. Many of them believe there isn’t another way for them to ever aspire to, other than crime because of their poor education or their limitations, or some cultural groups that are chronically illiterate. They come to jail outside the education loop. They don’t have the social connections. They see this as the only way they’re going to ever do things.
— Financial counsellor
You will find more often than not that when you are first brought into custody that you are, not so much segregated, but have limited opportunity to see support staff. Because you’re locked down so often under the duty of care, you know, we must make sure that there’s no risk intervention required here, so we’ll check this person out for a period of two or three weeks. And those two or three weeks or one week can be crucial to a person’s peace of mind, [and inmates] facilitating legal representation.
— Female sentenced prisoner
And it’s often just the last thing on people’s minds if they’ve just been arrested. And you know, we’re down at whatever jail they’re on remand at, you tell the welfare officer you’re on a payment, a million other things going through your mind. You’ve got so many restrictions on what you’re allowed to do and who you’re allowed to contact anyway. Last thing on your mind, is, ooh, must call Centrelink.
— Caseworkers Welfare Rights Centre
… because you’re not at liberty, the process is laborious, and the information is not available to you as to how to go about it in the first place. So a lot of inmates are just in the dark as to what their rights, obligations and responsibilities are.
— Male sentenced prisoner
I mean the other thing that would help us [is] if we could have some sort of system or process in place in prisons for us to call prisoners back. That would be really helpful, because it’s not always guaranteed that there will be a lawyer off the phone, or in, or available, to talk to them.
We don’t get mail regularly at all. Very, here, there and everywhere. I’ve had letters that have taken over three weeks to get delivered … I know it’s not the mail officer’s fault, but as soon as they need somebody else [for security duties] she’s the one that they take away, and so the mail doesn’t get done … I know two other [inmates whose] briefs didn’t come till after they went to court.
— Female remandee
… pretty much all of the offenders that come here would have lost their licence at some point or other. And often it’s not through driving whilst disqualified, it’s just because they’ve accumulated fees and they can’t pay them so they lose their licence. So then that stops them from looking for work, or for people [who] have got a trade or whatever, and they’re a painter and they need to be out, you know, going around, they can’t drive. And they can’t get a job because … the first thing they’ve got to say is that they haven’t got a licence. So they don’t get employed. And it’s just this kind of domino effect.
— Probation and parole officer