The 17 Group: Prison reform

The next meeting of the 17 Group will take place at 7 pm on Wednesday the 29th of June at the BWCC, formerly known as the Paddo Workers’ Club, 2 Latrobe Terrace (corner Given Terrace), Paddington.  It will be addressed by Keith Hamburger AM on the topic: “Queeensland’s Gaol and Imprisonment Crisis.”

It would be helpful, if you have not already done so, to rsvp here:https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfPITHGFPYpGOmskg3W6LSL3byXWicprkvFTiD8T7ig9wBhyw/viewform

The themes of the talk will be:

“ How to reduce imprisonment in a pragmatic and humane way. Keeping communities safe – saving lives and saving money “

  • Enhancing social and economic circumstances of First Nation Communities such that crime and recidivism is reduced
  • Dealing with ‘Duty of Care’ issues  existing in overcrowded adult and juvenile correction facilities
  • Achieving billions of dollars of savings through an alternative sentencing approach that reduces crime and recidivism, and the requirement for prison cells by :

# phasing out  juvenile detention centres. This process has occurred in other countries – so why is Australia such a laggard ?

# diverting thousands of adult offenders each year to Healing and Rehabilitation Facilities

# Giving life, to the principles of Justice Reform, Reconciliation, Justice reinvestment and to the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody.

Stuart Creek Prison circa 1900

Short biography:

Keith was Queensland’s first Director General  of the then Queensland Corrective Services Commission (QCSC) ( December 1988 – June 1997 ).

Keith, responsible to the QCSC Board, led successful implementation of the Kennedy Commission of Inquiry Reform Agenda and achieved one of the most cost-effective systems of Corrections in Australia including the lowest return to prison rate during this period.

Keith has contributed to major inquiries into Queensland Corrections including the Bredhauer Inquiry into the QLD Prison System, the Longland Inquiry  into riots at Boggo Road High Security Prison, the Kennedy Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland Prison System, reviews of the parole system and the 2019 QLD Productivity Commission of Inquiry into Imprisonment and Recidivism.

Keith was a member of the Queensland Parole Board for eleven years. He has visited and studied corrections in  Germany, Holland, England, Singapore, Solomon Islands, PNG, USA and New Zealand.

He has led significant correctional consulting projects throughout Australia, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands and PNG. Keith appeared as an expert witness before the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, 2016.

Since 2016 he has worked with First Nation people in QLD to develop a unique proposal to rapidly reduce the over representation of First Nation in QLD prisons through empowering First nation Communities to deliver  family, community strengthening and Justice Services.

Keith has a Bachelor of Arts, University of Queensland, majoring in Government  and Sociology, including criminal justice studies. He is a member in the General Division of the Order of Australai for Public Service (AM).

Repeating, it would be helpful, if you have not already done so, to rsvp here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfPITHGFPYpGOmskg3W6LSL3byXWicprkvFTiD8T7ig9wBhyw/viewform

Leon, who is just back from an unsuccessful attempt in Moscow, (where he was in lockdown not for Covid but for unresolved hospital records relating to his involvement with the Spanish Influenza of 1919), to reach Putin on the Ukraine issue, through great-grandsons of old comrades in OGPU, Cheka and other early look-alikes of the KGB (“Leon who?”), was interested to hear of our upcoming meeting. As usual our topic triggered nostalgic memories, this time of his own imprisonment and exile days.  He told us many a story of Dostoyevskyan prison encounters, reconditely allegorical anti-Stalinesque carceral jokes, hairbreadth escapes.  But oddly enough the main amusement he got out of reliving all this was from a recent traveller’s tale of one Andrew Taylor on a website given hereunder, about visiting Leon’s old house, what is now the Trotsky Museum in Mexico, in 2018, and being shown around by a guide called Manuel.  All worth reading, but Leon dilated longest upon this bit of it:

He points to Trotsky dressed as a rabbi and his mugshot when he was arrested by the tsar’s police and pictures of his exile in the frozen wastelands of Siberia. 

“They were given 400 grams of bread daily and when they were punished, this was reduced by half,” Manuel says. “And because of the harsh weather of Siberia this was pretty much the difference between death and life.”

The catering might have been poor but Trotsky spent his imprisonment productively studying philosophy and siring two daughters until he escaped by hiding in a load of hay on a wagon.

Leon , as you know, is fond of rather ponderous jokes that demonstrate what he fondly hopes is his surprising command of idiomatic English.  “Foolish fellow,” he said, not specifying whether he meant Manuel the guide or Andrew the tourist, “I was dressed not as rabbi, but as rabbit, much more appropriate for hiding in load of hay, and such much previous philoprogenitive behaviour, no? Hey Ho!”  Undaunted by his jollity, we asked our usual question about the meeting.  “Coming?”  “Coming or Going, either or both, Ho, Ho, Ho!” he replied guffawingly as he showed us out.

Please comment down below