Write On: Letters to the Editor

November 8, 2008

Abolish the prisons!

We think GLW's front page headline about Lex Wotton, "Jail cops that kill" (GLW #773) gives a wrong message. We want to draw attention to a radical position challenging the power of the state in the criminal justice area.

We work to resolve social tensions within the community, and not exclude anyone. Community problems require community solutions where we all learn and develop new responses.

Prisons have failed everywhere. Each prisoner costs $70,000 a year, kids in juvenile justice over $200,000 a year and almost half return within two years, having lost their community roots. Half the children are Indigenous. Prisons cause crime and sap the money from schools, hospitals and services.

That temptation to punish those who hurt us arose many years ago when prisoners had to consider whether they were prepared to give evidence against prison officers who had illegally brutalised them for many decades and were finally exposed before the Nagle Royal Commission in 1978.

The agreement was that we would give evidence and expose the truth, but would refuse to give evidence when it came to convicting them and sentencing them to punishment and prison. We decided that we couldn't use the same instrument that we rejected as counterproductive and unacceptable.

Abolition of prisons is the way forward. Angela Davis and others have written a lot about the prison industrial complex. Modern day slavery, with 25,000 slaves in Australia costing three billion dollars a year. All destructive.

On the Justice Action website <http://www.justiceaction.org.au> we offer some alternatives. We talk of restorative justice and mentoring. Changing the culture of criminal justice. Otherwise we have more of the same. And our people are the ones inside.

We don't want the likes of Chris Hurley in our spaces anyway!!

Brett Collins

Justice Action

Sydney, NSW

Lessons from the Great Depression

At 12 years' old, in 1935, I delivered fresh milk to peoples' "billies" before school and after, six days a week.

My father, a railway man, had work when a third of the male population of Australia never had a job. For about 18 months then, he was based at a railway town of about 200-300 people in the middle of West Australia's wheat belt.

On Sundays, my day off, I often biked about three miles out of town to a mate's place on a thousand-acre wheat farm owned by his father. My mate was the second youngest of six kids.

Like perhaps 95% of farms at that time, this farm had teams of draught horses — giant, but gentle — ploughing, harvesting and carting the wheat harvest. The wheat was in 180 pound jute bags and was stacked (upright) two high on a big wooden-wheeled (steel tyres) four-wheeled wagons.

We were having lunch, nine around a table. The farmer, who had turned on the wireless, suddenly said, "C'mon boys and girls, harness the horses, we're heading into town!".

The news had just announced that wheat had gone up to nine pence halfpenny per bushel. But when we arrived at the railway siding, the wheat price had dropped back to nine pence per bushel (later that day it dropped to eight pence three farthings). The farmer refused to sell to the WA wheat board.

The current downhill slide towards depression is already being referred to as potentially like 1929-1939. Downturn, recession, depression are an inevitable part of the
system we live under: capitalism.

All the kerfuffle in New York is really only a gambling sideshow, compared to what capitalism has on offer for the bulk of the world — worry, misery, suffering and danger. Yes, danger of war.

We must have a determination to rally people to prevent their stupidity: they are stupid enough to start on nuclear holocaust.

A better world is possible. We owe it to all those millions who literally gave their lives over the last 500 years to win the rights and freedoms we have.

Jim Knight

Grafton NSW


Obama victory: pixies in the garden?

Good to hear we've got a new president in the White House. Now I look forward to seeing an end to the blockade on Cuba, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, the jailing of corporate criminals who caused the economic meltdown (and compensation for their victims), and pixies dancing in the bottom of the garden!

Alex Milne


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