Why I’m leaving the Prison Reform Trust now

Why step down from a charity you love, just when prison reform is properly on the public and parliamentary agenda? Why hand over when there is so much yet to achieve? The answer has to be, precisely because both of these things are true.

There is a painful tension between the rhetoric of prison reform, and the prime minister’s ambitions to make it the “great progressive cause of British politics”, and the reality of the highest recorded levels of violence, suicide and self-harm in our overcrowded jails. It hurts to hear, and in large measure to believe, David Cameron and Michael Gove when they say they want to create a prison system that treats people in custody as “potential assets” and “not simply as liabilities to be managed”. My recent visit to a ghostly, silent, locked-down Wormwood Scrubs and this week’s chief inspector’s report of men condemned to spend 22 hours a day behind their doors in a filthy, rat-infested prison, both attest to the extent of the challenge faced.

By Juliet Lyon; more at The Guardian

Bishops’ West Papua visit hailed by Catholic women

A Catholic Womens group in West Papua has called for regional support for their people’s plight, after a visit to the Indonesian territory by Catholic Bishops from other parts of Melanesia.

Followers of Muslim faiths generally coexist peacefully with Christians in Papua Jayapura: Indonesian culture has increasingly overwhelmed both Melanesian customs and the West Papuan population.

Among them were the Archbishop of Port Moresby, John Ribat, and the Archbishop of Honiara, Adrian Smith.

More at Radio New Zealand

Byron screening of film to highlight plight of West Papua

A group of surfers travelled to West Papua looking for waves and adventure but instead found the country’s people living under a brutal regime.

Their story is the subject of a film, called Isolated, that will screen at Pighouse Flicks in Byron Bay on Friday night, for one showing only.

The film follows the surfers – Travis Potter, Andrew Mooney, Josh Fuller, Jenny Useldinger, Jimmy Rotherham – as they travel into the ‘no media’ zone of West Papua in search of unexplored waves.

By Darren Coyne; more at Echo Netdaily

West Papua a regional issue, says Liberation Movement

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua says Papua remains an issue for the wider Melanesian region despite Indonesia’s efforts to internalise it.

Since the Liberation Movement was granted observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group last year, Indonesia has increased its diplomatic engagement with MSG member states.

Jakarta, which has MSG associate member status, is lobbying to fend off support for West Papuan self-determination and said it had the support of Fiji and Papua New Guinea to become a full member.

More at Radio New Zealand

‘Free West Papua’ Campaign Turns to Social Media for Global Support

The ‘Free West Papua Campaign’ is asking Internet users to post photos supporting the hashtag #LetWestPapuaVote.

West Papua is currently a province of Indonesia, but there is a movement inside and outside the country calling for the establishment of an independent state.The social media campaign promoting the hashtag #LetWestPapuaVote aims to garner the support of the international community in time for the gathering of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) in the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament on May 3.

By Dalia Kiakilir; more at Global Voices

Bob Brown shrugs off impact of split in Tasmanian Greens

Brown told Guardian Australia that Holloway had contacted him about the plan a month ago, and that he responded: “I wouldn’t be part of it in any shape or form.”

“[Holloway’s] been around since the 1970s, but he has never been involved in the politics of the Greens much either as an office holder or a candidate,” he said.

“I wish him well, I think if he gets registered for the federal or state election – he won’t for the federal election, it’s too late – he will feed more preferences to the Greens. I’ve always said the more the merrier with political parties.”

By Paul Karp; more at The Guardian

Erwin James: from double murderer to newspaper columnist

Erwin James insists on paying for the tea. “Do you take milk, sweetie?” he asks before heading to the counter of the cafe, a North London joint full of people tapping at laptops.

He returns to chat about his work as an author and journalist, but breaks off to assure me that I am in no danger. “You’re safe as the bank of England, sitting there,” he says. “Imagine. The idea of me hurting someone …”

James is more than 1.8 metres tall, but it seems unlikely that this 58-year-old gent in a smart navy jacket might take a violent turn as we sip English Breakfast. I tell him I feel quite safe.

Thirty-one years ago, though, a British judge considered James dangerous enough to lock him up for life. He served 20 years of his sentence for murdering two people.

By Louise Schwartzkoff; more at WA Today

Shelby Farah’s mom speaks out against death penalty at panel discussion

“Every time we walk into that courtroom and I have to look at the person that took my child’s life away,” said Farah.

Darlene Farah lost her daughter, Shelby Farah, two years ago to murder. Farah has pushed for the death penalty to be taken off the table against her daughter’s accused killer, James Rhodes.

“He put an offer on the table for two life sentences to run consecutive plus 20 years … so I’ve been begging the state to take his offer. Of course they don’t want to,” Farah said.

By Michael Yoshida; more at ActionNewsJax

Would it work? Prison reform in practice

There is no doubt that part of the problem with the debate on prisons is the generally punitive cast of public opinion and Paul Kirby is on to something when he identifies that the public thirst for imprisonment has, in part, come from the abolition of both capital and corporal punishment. It is also worth saying however that the public can have quite contradictory views when asked about prisons and the criminal justice system more widely. When polled, many people also express a desire for the system to rehabilitate. Yet there is little recognition that these two principles: punishment and reform, as the Ministry of Justice has in the past described its mission, are fundamentally contradictory. If you want people to change for the better, then punishment hinders that. Paul Kirby rightly identifies some of the myriad ways imprisonment ends up making people worse.

By Andrew Neilson; more at the website ‘volteface’