Regarding Rights

Academic and activist perspectives on human rights


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Being Detained: Prelude to a thesis on Liberia and the rule of law

By Shane Chalmers*

Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANU

‘Nimba County Prison Inmates, Liberia’ (photo: United Nations/Christopher Herwig)

‘Nimba County Prison Inmates, Liberia’ (photo: United Nations/Christopher Herwig)

The Training and Development Officer from the Corrections Advisory Unit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia is standing outside the prison gate, her white skin marking her out as much as her blue UN insignia. I have crossed this street innumerable times before but have never noticed the ‘corrections facility’. Its towering perimeter wall blends into the Ministry of Defence and military barracks that run alongside, but even these do not stand out in Monrovia; this could have been any other international NGO compound. The urban streetscape of Liberia’s capital city is dominated by walls topped with razor wire and patrolled by private security guards. Continue Reading →


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The human rights implications of smoking bans in prisons: some international cases

By Anita Mackay, Monash University

NSW prison staff prepare for the possibility of riots in response to this month's smoking ban. (Photo: ABC News/Corrective Services NSW)

NSW prison staff prepare for the possibility of riots in response to this month’s smoking ban. (Photo: ABC News/Corrective Services NSW)

Australia’s two most populous States have recently implemented smoking bans in prisons (Victoria from 1 July and NSW from 10 August). In doing this they are joining the Northern Territory (where smoking was banned from 1 July 2013), Queensland (from 5 May 2014) and Risdon prison in Tasmania (from 31 January 2015). In my previous post about smoking bans in Australian prisons, I considered some of the objectives of smoking bans, as well as evidence about how effective bans have been at achieving these objectives in countries that have greater experience with banning smoking in prisons.

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Smoking bans in Australian Prisons

By Anita Mackay, Monash University

Elephant and Castle - No Smoking

States and Territories around Australia are rushing to ban smoking in prisons – the Northern Territory was the first in July 2013, and has recently been joined by Queensland (from 5 May 2014).  Most others have stated their intention to ban smoking during 2015.[1]  This blog post poses two questions:

1. What are smoking bans in prisons intended to achieve? and

2. Based on overseas experience, are smoking bans an effective way to achieve these objectives?

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Accommodating people in cages and shipping containers: the reality of overcrowded prisons

By Anita Mackay

Monash University

Shipping containers used to accommodate imprisoned Victorians Image from  www.theage.com.au/victoria/prisoners-moved-into-shipping-containers-20140106-30d23.html

Shipping containers used to accommodate imprisoned Victorians
Image from www.theage.com.au/victoria/prisoners-moved-into-shipping-containers-20140106-30d23.html

Increasing prison populations are a common trend in Australia and internationally. This post examines the Victorian situation because Victoria has the fastest growing prison population in Australia, and attempts to highlight some of the consequences and costs of this phenomenon. Continue Reading →


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Women in Australian prisons and why they need human rights protections

Oath 2009, by Carolyn McKay.  Reproduced with permission of the artist.

Oath 2009, by Carolyn McKay.
Reproduced with permission of the artist.

By Anita Mackay

Monash University

The ACT Human Rights Commission is currently conducting an audit and review of the treatment of women in the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC). This raises the broader question of “what human rights do women in Australian prisons have?”[1] Continue Reading →


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A human rights assessment of the proposed needle and syringe exchange program in Canberra’s prison

By Anita Mackay

Monash University

Original photo by Todd Huffman at flikr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/99287245@N00/2344377068

Original photo by Todd Huffman at flikr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/99287245@N00/2344377068

The ACT government has announced the introduction of a needle and syringe exchange program for the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) as a method for reducing the spread of blood-borne viruses.  This is a contentious proposal that faces a degree of opposition, including from prison officers and nurses.  If it goes ahead, the ACT would become the first jurisdiction in Australia to have such a program in a prison.  This post considers some of the arguments in favour of, and against, the proposal from a human rights perspective.  It concludes that a needle and syringe exchange program, if implemented in a manner that is informed by overseas experience, would be consistent with the human rights of both prisoners and prison officers. 

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