These are letters from family members of some of the Muslims currently being held at Goulburn Supermax. Despite the attempts of media and politicians to dehumanise Muslims, the suffering resulting from the exceptional treatment of Muslim prisoners is real. As you read the letter we ask you to ponder over the exceptionally unjust treatment of Muslim prisoners, and the exceptional treatment of Muslims more broadly. Where is this all heading? What does the future hold? From Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Palestine to local #AntiMuslimLaws, harassment at the airports, audio and visual surveillance, pressuring Imams, targeting our youth in schools, abuse in the streets, control orders, passport cancellations, welfare cancellations, revoking citizenship, the list is as long as it is confronting.
The exceptional treatment should be of concern to us all, inhumane treatment is being justified on the back of dubious accusations and narratives. We must never allow ourselves to accept such a lowering of human treatment, ever.
Bismillah. Assalaamu alaykum warohmatullahi wabarokaatuhu
Just the week before the changes I was preparing to write to Peter Severin to ask him to relax the phone call restrictions and difficulties with booking a visit that my son and his family have endured for the last nine and a half years, I was just waiting to speak to my son about it.
Then I got a message from a friend of my son letting me know that when he called to book a visit he was told there would be no visits that weekend due to “operational procedures”. I immediately knew there was a problem.
I waited day after day for my son to call me. The week ended, the weekend passed. Then my son called on Monday morning the 9th March.
His voice was sombre but calm. He said “don’t be upset mum, they’ve made some changes”. My heart went to my throat anticipating what was to come. “We can’t have contact visits any more, only box visits and we can’t speak Arabic on calls or visits and no more “buy up” money.
“WHAT?!” I was furious, but my son stayed calm and just said “remember the battle of Khandaq” and then he recited verse 22 of surah Ahzab to me and told me the translation.
“And when the believers saw the companies, they said, “This is what Allah and His Messenger had promised us, and Allah and His Messenger spoke the truth.” And it increased them only in faith and acceptance.”
“Sabran jameelan mum, we know it’s going to be hard, coz we are believers and we are going to be tested and tested.”
Alhamdulillah, by the mercy of Allah they did not cut the call straight away when he recited this verse to me. Maybe they hadn’t had enough practice yet being early Monday morning. But now we are very cautious, although we both speak English, naturally as Muslims we use a lot of Arabic terms – including the quotation of verses from the Holy Quran. But how about the other brothers and their relatives? One of the mothers is quite elderly, may Allah give her saakinah, and she knows no English. Now she is prevented from speaking with her son?
This is the offering of State Attorney General Brad Hazzard:
“in rare cases the Corrective Services Commissioner could use his discretion to allow inmates to speak other languages provided an immediate translation was supplied, for example if an inmate was speaking with his 90-year-old grandmother who spoke no English.” (Daily Telegraph 8/3/15)
Mr Hazzard wishes to ‘kindly’ subject an elderly woman to a small, stuffy steel room, so that she may talk to her son through a closed window, with a stranger beside her, listening and immediately translating her conversation with him? And only a rare case like that would a translator be allowed.
“We don’t want to create a situation where they feel there’s no sense of humanity, because there will be,” Mr Hazzard said. (Daily Telegraph 8/3/15)
There will be humanity? We’ve been waiting nine and a half years to be treated like human beings.
We have been restricted to just a few calls per week of only 6 mins duration. My son has more than one family member he needs to speak to so each of us only get to speak to him now and then. He doesn’t get to choose when he can call, so sometimes we miss his call. It’s impossible to have a decent conversation in that time, so difficult to communicate about important matters, especially family matters. Mail takes a minimum of one week to be received by him or us, so a matter that needs to be dealt with can take two weeks or more. Can you just try to imagine the frustration, inconvenience, hardship and worry it causes.
Visits are only once a week on a weekend for only one hour. Not like other prisoners who can have visits for up to four hours. Booking a visit is not as simple and straight forward as it may seem. Who can go? Which car can we use? Who can take care of the kids? There’s a lot to organise. When you book a visit they say your visit is “locked in” and you can’t make changes to the booking, only cancel but not re-book. Well our lives are not “locked in”- cars break down, people get sick, another relative can come after all but no- “no changes to bookings”. The Ombudsman looked into this matter for me in the past but to no avail. They have the same answer for everything “Security Reasons” and security reasons are unquestionable. Other prisons allow changes to booking visits so long as you can I.D. yourself on the phone. How is it a security issue to add a child to visit booking? How is it a security issue to cancel and re-book another time. I was once even rudely told that I should arrange things before I called to make a booking. You think I don’t spend two or three days chasing around making arrangements? Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you plan. That’s normal life for everyone….but not for us. We are not allowed to have a normal life. They make everything as unreasonably difficult as possible.
What are these men supposed to eat now? They need “buy up money” to buy halal food. Now they only get $13 prisoner allowance per week! They also need money to pay for phone calls and stamped envelopes, let alone warm prison clothes for the coming winter. One of the brothers has a wife and son overseas, but because of this outrageous restriction he cannot call them anymore.
The Corrective Services Dept. explains to the families how important it is that inmates and families maintain relationships through visits, mail and phone calls .. but this “privilege” does not extend to the prisoners of Supermax Goulburn.
“Maintaining family ties has real benefits for prisoners and their families. It can be hard work to keep in contact with a family member in a centre. Fares, petrol and other costs can make visiting expensive, and dealing with correctional centre security can be frustrating. Everyday demands can make it hard to find time for visiting or staying in contact in other ways.
However, prisoners who keep in close contact with family are less likely to re-offend once they’re released, do better on parole and have better mental health. Families also benefit from better mental health and better family relationships when the prisoner returns home.
It’s easy for prisoners to become institutionalised, meaning that they can’t cope without the structure of a correctional centre. Keeping in contact with families helps maintain an identity as a partner, friend, brother, sibling or parent. Family ties remind the prisoner that they’re more than just an ‘offender” and help them stay focused on the roles they can play beyond the correctional centre.
Away from home and loved ones, it’s easy for prisoners to believe that people will stop caring about them.
This can produce feelings of isolation, hopelessness and despair. Regular visits and letters from family are important reminders to prisoners that there are people on the outside who love and care for them.
Keeping in contact also means family can assist prisoners in planning for the future, and supporting them after release.”
This statement, while perfectly comprehensive and true, is only rhetoric for my son and all inmates of SuperMax prison.
The level of contact is so restricted they cannot possibly maintain even a remotely “normal” relationship with their families or friends.
How are they supposed to maintain family relationships, their own identity and roles in the family?
How are they expected to be prepared for release, “rehabilitated” or even sane?
How are they going to re-join their families when their relationships have been destroyed through the unjust and oppressive lack of contact? Marriages are already destroyed and a significant contributing factor has been the restrictions on communication.
I ask all Muslims of Australia and all fair minded people who have to demand NSW Attorney General, Brad Hazzard, Minister of Justice to stop these unjust and oppressive restrictions, not just regarding visits, mail and phone calls but all areas of “life” in Super Max, Goulburn.
If not, then Allah knows best and I put my trust in Him
I cannot identify myself as I have been given strong legal advice that if I do, then my visits with my son will probably be suspended as punishment. They punish people on the outside of the prison walls as well as inside. Where is the humanity in that?
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