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Submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

The CIJ has made a submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on current issues in the Victorian prison system.

The CIJ has previously advocated for a reduction in incarceration noting that institutions which have a primary function of depriving people of their liberty should never be prioritised as the location for treatment and support when that support could be more appropriately provided in the community. Nevertheless, given that people continue to be incarcerated and are vulnerable to experiencing forms of torture and ill-treatment while in custody, our submission advocates for incarcerated people to be treated with respect and dignity, to have access to therapeutic services and support, and be protected from ill-treatment.

Our submission echoes the concerns of the Yoorrook Justice Commission and others, that prisons are not culturally safe for First Nations People, who remain unacceptably overrepresented in Victorian prisons and continue to experience harm in prison custody – emphasising the importance of self-determination to address systemic injustice in the criminal justice system and the many harms that the system has caused. We also highlight concerns with the treatment of and lack of specialist supports for women, people with disability and trans and gender diverse people who also experience elevated risks of ill-treatment in prison custody.

We call for innovative solutions and alternatives to institutional prison custody alongside responses to reduce and address trauma within prisons, informed by lived experience, openness and transparency. We reiterate that the Victorian Government should, as a matter of urgency, designate a Victorian National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to give effect to Australia’s international obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

The submission, which is available here, will inform the Special Rapporteur’s current investigation into current issues and good practices in the management of prisons, including pre-trial detention facilities and her forthcoming report to be presented to the 55th session of the Human Rights Council.