Jesuit Social Services welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s second consultation paper on the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
On 21 December 2017, the Australian Government ratified OPCAT. OPCAT requires independent inspections of all places of detention in Australia. These will be facilitated by National Preventative Mechanisms (NPMs). Their structure and process is still being established and consulted on.
In this submission, we recommend:
- That NPMs protect the rights of and ensure that supports are in place for vulnerable cohorts in places of detention, including:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,
- individuals with ABI and cognitive impairment,
- young adults,
- transgender and gender diverse people,
- children and young people.
- That NPMs prioritise the prevention of the use of isolation and other methods of physical and chemical restraints in prisons and youth custodial centres.
- That NPMs actively monitor the provision of support and rehabilitation for unsentenced prisoners.
- That offshore immigration detention facilities (such as those operating in Papua New Guinea and Nauru) be included within the jurisdiction of OPCAT, given these places of confinement are under Australia’s effective jurisdiction despite being located outside Australia’s territory.
- That NPMs establish formal mechanisms for third parties (such as community service organisations) to give people a voice once they have been released from detention.
- To promote the principles of OPCAT, the youth justice workforce must be grounded in principles that place the interests, developmental needs and rehabilitation of children and young people at the forefront, with a minimum qualification introduced across Australia.
- That legislation establishing NPMs enshrine their functional and structural independence and autonomy, and a holistic interpretation of prevention.
- That appropriate experts are included as part of visiting teams.