Liberty Victoria supports the calls for humane decarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic. You cannot social distance in a cramped prison.

Liberty Victoria joins the 119 Criminal and Legal Practitioners to call for humane decarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic. You cannot social distance in a cramped prison.

Humane decarceration during the COVID-19 Pandemic

In order to preserve human rights and further protect public health we the undersigned are calling on the Victorian Government to release the following class of prisoners:

1. Elderly or immunosuppressed prisoners;

2. Prisoners serving sentence for non-violent offending;

3. Female prisoners eligible for release especially prisoners who are pregnant;

4. Young people who have access to accommodation and supports in the community;

5. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people;

6. Prisoners who are soon to be or are eligible for parole; and

7. People on remand who are unlikely to serve more than 6 months in custody.

Releasing such people will protect their fundamental rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) including the right to life, right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty and the right to be protected from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

A total of 20% of all prison sentences imposed in Victoria during 2017/2018 were “time served” sentences. Of those “time served” sentences 96% of those sentences totalled less than six months. (1 ) We are calling for prisoners, potential remandees and people who would otherwise fall within this class of persons to be either released or otherwise not detained. We are calling for the bail laws to be amended to remove the “exceptional circumstances” category for relatively minor offences that were committed whilst on a CCO, bail or a good behaviour bond.

Bold leadership is required from the government to adopt widespread principles of decarceration throughout the criminal justice system. It is a tough decision but it is the right decision. It will help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

The prison system is not an island and is not immune from the ravages of COVID-19. It will enter into the system creating intense hotspots, presenting extreme risk to prison and wider communities. Prisoners will be subject to lockdown, social isolation and isolation from their families. Their mortality rates will be higher in custody than if they were in the community.

Allowing this unnecessary exposure to a potentially deadly infection to the listed classes of prisoner will be such as to amount to torture. A society is judged by how it (1) treats its most vulnerable. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good and so we ask that these principles of decarceration be applied as soon as possible.

(1) Sentencing Advisory Council, Time Served Prison Sentences in Victoria Factsheet (2 February 2020)

Dated: 27 March 2020

Letter was sent to the Attorney General and Minister for Corrections on Friday 27 March

Signed: 1. Felix Ralph, Partner, C. Marshall & Associates 2. Luke McMahon, Solicitor, Doogue + George 3. Ben Watson, Solicitor, Johnstone and Reimer Lawyers 4. Professor Felicity Gerry QC, Barrister, Victorian Bar and the Bar of England and Wales 5. Julia Kretzenbacher, Barrister, Victorian Bar and Vice President, Liberty Victoria 6. Markorius Habib, Barrister, Victorian Bar 7. Jacob Slucki, Partner, Kaczmarek Grigor Lawyers 8. Alexis Kaczmarek, Principal, Kaczmarek Grigor Lawyers 9. Melanie Rudolphus, Lawyer 10. Jarryd Bartle, Criminal Justice Consultant and Sessional Lecturer at RMIT University 11. Professor Jeremy Gans, Professor, The University of Melbourne Law School 12. Samantha Seoud, Barrister, Victorian Bar 13. Erin Ramsay, Barrister, Victorian Bar 14. Allie Sutherland, Solicitor, Greg Thomas Barrister & Solicitor 15. Darcey Dempsey, Lawyer, Victoria 16. Sam Norton, Partner, Stary Norton Halphen 17. Felicity Fox, Barrister, Victorian Bar 18. Dr Diana Johns, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, The University of Melbourne   19. Dr Dave McDonald, Lecturer in Criminology, The University of Melbourne 20. Sarah Mercer, Lawyer, Victoria 21. Rocky Perrotta, Principal, Perrotta Legal 22. Martin Radzaj, Barrister, Victorian Bar and Chair of Criminal Policy Committee, Liberty Victoria 23. Dr Anton Symkovych, Lecturer in Criminology, The University of Melbourne 24. Karen Wallace Gurney, Principal and Manager, Goulburn Valley CLC 25. Dr Shelley Turner, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, Monash University 26. Dr Fiona Haines, Professor of Criminology, The University of Melbourne 27. Jonathan Barreiro, Barrister, Victorian Bar 28. Chen Yang, Principal Solicitor, Paul Vale Criminal Law 29. Dr Claire Loughnan, Lecturer in Criminology, The University of Melbourne 30. Mel Walker, Principal, Mel Walker Criminal Lawyers 31. Jordana Fayman, Principal, Fayman Lawyers 32. Cameron Marshall, Principal, C. Marshall & Associates 33. Danijella Jovanovska, Principal, C. Marshall & Associates 34. Daniel McGlone, Barrister, Victorian Bar 35. Christopher Brydon, Solicitor, Chester Metcalfe & Co 36. Liberty Victoria 37. Paul Kidd, Lawyer, Fitzroy Legal Service 38. Odette Shenfield, Lawyer, Fitzroy Legal Service 39. Jonathan Miller, Barrister, Victorian Bar 40. Claudia Flocke, Lawyer, Giorgianni & Liang Lawyers 41. Briana Goding, Barrister, Victorian Bar 42. Bill Doogue, Lawyer and Director, Doogue & George 43. Julian McMahon SC, Barrister, Victorian Bar 44. Amanda McNuff, Lawyer 45. Jo Finlay, Lawyer, VLA 46. Caitlin Dwyer, Barrister, Victorian Bar 47. Jennifer Black, Principal Lawyer, Legal Practice, Fitzroy Legal Service 48. Rishi Nathwani, Barrister, Victorian Bar and Bar of England and Wales 49. Sandra Wendlandt, Barrister, Victorian Bar 50. Greg Barns, Barrister, Victorian Bar, former National President of Australian Lawyers Alliance 51. Lachlan Cameron, Barrister, Victorian Bar 52. William Blake, Barrister, Victorian Bar 53. Johan Ollquist, Barrister, Victorian Bar 54. Sandra Gaunt, Solicitor, Valos Black & Associates 55. Natalie Tengalia, Lawyer, Claudia Grimberg Lawyers 56. Liz Hughes, Lawyer 57. Tom Battersby, Barrister, Victorian Bar 58. Ruth Shann, Barrister, Victorian Bar 59. Stephanie Wallace, Barrister, Victorian Bar 60. Katherine Farrell, Barrister, Victorian Bar 61. Karen Fletcher, Managing Lawyer Public Interest Law, Fitzroy Legal Service 62. Hugo Moodie, Barrister, Victorian Bar 63. Nancy Grunwald, Barrister, Victorian Bar 64. Katie Uren, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 65. Jonathan Barrera, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 66. Andrew Halphen, Partner, Stary Norton Halphen 67. Louise Conwell, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 68. Thomas Edwards, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 69. Nick Jane, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 70. Sophia Coates, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 71. Stephanie Kerr, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 72. Courtney Hart, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 73. Tessa Di Paolo, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 74. Sean Kelly, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 75. Nicole Spicer, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 76. Rob Stary, Principal, Stary Norton Halphen 77. Marco Man, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 78. Sarah Condon, Lawyer, Stary Norton Halphen 79. Leonard Hartnett, Barrister, Victorian Bar 80. Aggy Kapitaniak, Barrister, Victorian Bar 81. Simon Moglia, Barrister, Victorian Bar 82. Yasmin Geneva, Lawyer, Fitzroy Legal Service 83. Jennifer McGarvie, Barrister, Victorian Bar 84. Michael Stanton, Barrister, Victorian Bar 85. Maddie Carroll, Lawyer, Emma Turnbull Lawyers Pty Ltd d 86. Emma Turnbull, Director, Emma Turnbull Lawyers Pty Ltd 87. Tristan Nathanielsz, Barrister, Victorian Bar 88. David Carolan, Barrister, Victorian Bar 89. Gregory Buchhorn, Barrister, Victorian Bar 90. Justin Willee, Barrister, Victorian Bar 91. Rosalind Avis, Barrister, Victorian Bar 92. Amie Hancock, Barrister, Victorian Bar 93. Karen Chibert, Barrister, Victorian Bar 94. Campbell Thomson, Barrister, Victorian Bar 95. Rabea Khan, Barrister, Victorian Bar 96. Deanna Caruso, Barrister, Victorian Bar 97. Chris Davies, Lawyer, Fitzroy Legal Service 98. Marcus Dempsey, Barrister, Victorian Bar 99. Carly Lloyd, Barrister, Victorian Bar 100. Dr Theo Alexander, Barrister, Victorian Bar 101. Bridget Coath, Lawyer 102. Amy Brennan, Barrister, Victorian Bar 103. Barnaby Johnston, Barrister, Victorian Bar 104. Luke Howson, Barrister, Victorian Bar 105. Hannah Sycamore, Senior Civil Lawyer 106. John Moore, Barrister, Victorian Bar 107. Gemma Carfarella, Lawyer and Chair of the Government Regulation and Equality Committee, Liberty Victoria 108. Rebecca Boreham, Director and Principal Solicitor, Rebecca Boreham Barristers & Solicitors Pty Ltd 109. Emma Stewart, Lawyer 110. Sam Elkin, Coordinating Lawyer LGBTIQ Legal Service at St Kilda Legal Service 111. Kate Da Costa, Senior Associate, Doogue + George 112. Jessica Richter, Community Lawyer, St Kilda Legal Service Inc. 113. Karen Chibert, Barrister, Victorian Bar 114. Jeremy King, Principal, Robinson Gill Lawyers 115. Hannah Lewis, Community Outreach Lawyer, St Kilda Legal Service 116. Kate Ballard, Barrister, Victorian Bar   117. Emma Buckley Lennox, Lawyer 118. Katherine Rolfe, Barrister, Victorian Bar 119. Lucien Richter, Barrister, Victorian Bar