The Hon. I. COHEN
[4.50]: I speak on an issue of great social importance. A young man named Gary, aged 17, was sentenced to three months imprisonment for minor offences. In gaol he found himself amongst hardened criminals. He was terrified. He was threatened with violence unless he submitted to homosexual acts. He was assured that if he ever informed on his abusers they could and would have him killed, even after his release from gaol. Approaching a nervous breakdown young Gary submitted to this abuse. The prisoners forced him to give oral sex, amongst other acts.
That was so humiliating and depraving that unless one has experienced it one can never fathom the depth of pain and torment it has caused Gary to suffer ever since. The abuse was constant for many months and still affects him. After serving two months of a three months sentence Gary was released and his state of mind was far worse than when he was sentenced. To try to escape the nightmare of the reality he had endured and still suffered he went on a constant drinking binge, hating the law and all that it stood for. Three days later Gary was found asleep in his car and was arrested and charged with drink driving by a detective determined to get tough with the hoodlum element.
The legal aid representative at the court informed Gary that he could not be represented unless he pleaded guilty. That is typical and the situation is likely to get worse as legal aid cutbacks are forcing the service to represent only those whose cases can be dealt with quickly by pleas of guilty. Other cases are too expensive to deal with. Legal aid representatives advise the perfectly innocent to plead guilty on that basis, advancing the argument that the courts are more likely to believe even a totally crooked cop than a teenager in trouble with the law. Gary defended himself and pleaded not guilty, beating the drink-driving charge on the basis that he was asleep in his car and not driving, whereupon the police prosecutor changed the charge to being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol. Without further ado the magistrate then sentenced Gary to six months imprisonment at the same hellhole.
Gary was so terrified of being subjected to further dehumanising treatment that he decided that his only means of avoiding it was to purposely get into trouble with prison authorities and to get himself locked up as much as possible. But when he was not in solitary he had to endure further abuse. He was repeatedly physically and verbally assaulted. Gary was regularly beaten with wooden bannister brushes, had cigarettes put out on him, was stabbed with a pencil compass and was beaten around the arms and legs with a wooden rolling pin and forced to eat faeces on a plastic plate in front of other inmates. He said:
I suffered constant abuse with threats of worse if I dared tell anyone.
Gary was subjected to torture. He said:
Upon release some four months later I was a total basket case and went into constant drug and alcohol abuse. Some weeks later a homosexual approached me in a public toilet and I hit out in terror because of what happened to me in prison. Someone else came to my aid and apparently hit this poor man with a beer bottle.
Thus began Gary's career as a supposedly violent criminal when, in fact, he is rather the victim of the criminal violence of the gaol system. He could be anybody's son. If the Premier gets his way with his new laws to arrest teenagers for being in groups of more than two, there will be many more stories like Gary's. Gary said:
The world hunted me down as a supposedly dangerous criminal when all I wanted was not to be constantly tortured.
In September 1996 Gary swallowed five wire crosses and some broken glass and cut himself up, but somehow he survived. His hope now is to either commit suicide, be killed by an overzealous prison officer or a severely brutalised prisoner, or have the public come to his aid. So far the public has seemed only to support increasing the hell he has to suffer. Gary is now in the psychiatric unit at Long Bay
gaol. The Government intends to increase the harshness of laws affecting the young in our society. Fortunately students are concerned and outraged about these laws and are willing to make that known on Tuesday, 22 October when there will be a walkout by the United Secondary Students Union to protest this and other issues directly affecting youth. It is clear that there is no juvenile crime wave and, even if there were, giving more powers to the police will not help. In the long term additional police with additional powers will add to the levels of reported crime because of the effect of over-intervention and institutionalisation. The level of conflict between young people and police is around 80 per cent. For Aboriginal young people it is even higher at 95 per cent. Young people have enormous needs that are not being met.
While young people, especially young men, are always being targeted as the perpetrators of crime, they are five times more likely to be the victims of assaults than the perpetrators. Much of the recent juvenile justice legislation in Australia clearly infringes on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Young people are less likely than adults to cause injury and to use weapons, and are less likely than adults to cause damage when committing offences. The cost of juvenile crime is far less than the cost of adult crime, especially corporate, drug, organised, environmental and taxation crimes. Young people are more likely to be recorded by police as offenders than adults although most offences relate to property offences, particularly shoplifting. Only 10 per cent to 20 per cent of these offenders are actually convicted. [Time expired
Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at 4.55 p.m., until
Tuesday, 22 October 1996, at 2.30 p.m.