Crime statistics released on Thursday showed the NSW adult prison population grew by 9% between April 2015 and March this year, to a new record high of 12,390 inmates.

The population has increased by 15% in the past two years, largely due to the growth in the number of prisoners on remand that followed changes to the state’s bail laws in May 2014.

The director of the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Bocsar), Dr Don Weatherburn, said the new laws had led to a sharp increase in the number of defendants refused bail at their first appearance.

“Since more than half of all remand prisoners end up receiving a prison sentence, the rise in the bail refusal rate is one of the factors putting upward pressure on the NSW prison population,” he said.

By Michael Safi; more at The Guardian, 28th April 2016

Why prisoner Acura ‘Junior’ Niuqila is being released from Long Bay jail to play rugby league every weekend

Not long after former Wallabies Sevens player Acura “Junior” Niuqila finishes playing for the Redfern All Blacks against Moore Park this Sunday he’ll be escorted by a NSW corrective services guard to a vehicle and transported back to Long Bay prison where he’s serving time for armed robbery.

By Daniel Lane; read more at The Sydney Morning Herald

Death Penalty Debate Emerging In Utah’s Right

A surprising new conversation is occurring within the circles of the political Right in Utah: the abolition of the death penalty.

Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty was founded in order to give those on the Right space to advocate the end of capital punishment. Marc Hyden, the organization’s national advocacy coordinator, said that the death penalty egregiously violates conservative and libertarian principles.

By Evan Hall; at Utah Public Radio

Italy leads way on prison reform but system in crisis

Bollate, a prison near Milan, is unlike any other.

Bollate is a model jail that attracts visitors from all over Europe, keen to learn from its policies of rehabilitation and reinsertion into active life. It has workshops, and even stables.

But it is the only one of its kind in Italy.

The national situation is much bleaker, despite penal reforms.

Prisons from another century, another world.

By Lilia Rotoloni; more at

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

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’

Union says prison reforms a ‘slap in the face’ for staff

Mr McMahon said the competitive tendering would put publicly run jails at a disadvantage against their privately run competitors.

“A lot of our members are saying the government has set us up to fail,” he said.

“I’m not into conspiracy theories, but I can understand how they feel that way.

“The state’s been left with the old jails, which are very labour intensive to run.

“It’s very difficult to compete against new jails with modern facilities.”

By Tim Howard; more at The Daily Examiner

Former Inmate Becomes Advocate For Prisoner Reform

JOHNSON: Sixteen months later, Senghor was the one pulling the trigger – four times – shooting a man in a confrontation on a Detroit street and becoming inmate number 219184. Walking into a prison known for its brutality, Senghor says he decided to be a lion rather than a lamb.

SENGHOR: You come in and you have to decide very early on, do you want to be a victim of, you know, rape or stabbings or bludgeonings, or do you want to stand up for yourself?

JOHNSON: During those first long years behind bars, he says he stood up for himself and more. Senghor embarked on a failed plot to escape, he ran a black-market prison shop, once threw hot mashed potatoes in the face of an inmate who insulted him and he fought with a corrections officer.

What do you say to people who read this book and say, listen, this is a guy who committed second-degree murder, why should I believe he’s going to change now?

SENGHOR: Well, I think my work speaks for itself. In the five years since I’ve been home, I’ve accomplished a lot. I had one – a TED Talk that was one of the top-ranked TED Talks of 2014. I’ve won awards for my mentoring work. You know, I’m actually out here living in a way that honors my second chance.

JOHNSON: Senghor says years of reflection in prison helped him change. So did books by Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and Plato.

SENGHOR: Yeah, reading changed my life. And it’s one of the things that, you know, I’m a firm believer in the power of the written word.

JOHNSON: He says he eventually made peace with the godmother of his victim, but he hasn’t been in touch with the man’s three children. Senghor left prison in June 2010, a day after his 38th birthday. He says he had a hard time finding a job. No one would rent him an apartment because of his criminal record. These days, he’s working for a group that’s trying to reduce incarceration and humanize people behind bars. In his free time, he’s mentoring kids in youth homes and visiting prisons near where he lives….

By Carrie Johnson; more at NPR.