PLS provides prisoners with legal representation where they meet our eligibility criteria.
Legal representation includes conducting advocacy and, in some cases, public interest litigation on behalf of prisoners in the Supreme Court of Queensland.
In the 2018-19 financial year, PLS provided ongoing casework representation to 120 prisoners.
Better prison conditions
PLS engages in advocacy for clients who are experiencing particularly challenging conditions of confinement. This includes:
- Advocating for prisoner’s removal from solitary confinement;
- Lodging complaints about excessive uses of force;
- Advocating for the needs of clients with disability to be considered in decision-making.
We also engage in strategic litigation where advocacy has not achieved positive outcomes for clients.
Changing parole outcomes
Our parole work involves representing prisoners in relation to a variety of parole matters which impact their liberty. This includes acting on behalf of prisoners in response to adverse preliminary parole decisions and assisting them with demonstrating why they do not pose a risk to the community.
PLS takes a holistic approach to helping prisoners with responding to parole decisions and our work often results in their release from custody when this would otherwise not occur.
Case Study: Solitary Confinement
Daniel* is a prisoner suffering from a number of psychological disabilities. Daniel was placed in solitary confinement, which involves being housed in a small padded cell with limited sunlight, no contact with other prisoners, limited exercise time and few resources for mental stimulation. After three months in this environment, Daniel made threats against staff. As a result, he was ordered to another six months of solitary confinement. This decision was made with no regard to Daniel’s disabilities or the harm he would suffer from continued isolation. PLS made submissions outlining these failures, but the decision maker maintained their position. PLS then filed judicial review proceedings in the Supreme Court challenging the way the solitary confinement decision was made. The decision maker withdrew the decision prior to trial and released Daniel from solitary confinement.
Case Study: Reversing preliminary parole refusals
Jess* is a young Aboriginal woman with a psychosocial disability and a history of significant trauma and abuse. Jess was in prison past her parole eligibility date when she received a preliminary parole refusal that contained a letter expressing concerns about releasing her. She was provided more than 40 pages of supporting documents and was invited to respond by written submissions within 14 days.
The primary concerns about releasing Jess related to non-compliant and disruptive behaviour in prison that was recorded on her prison records. PLS acted on behalf of Jess to help her respond to the preliminary parole refusal.
PLS spoke to Jess about the prison incidents using a gender sensitive and trauma informed approach. PLS obtained copies of her prison records and connected Jess with community-based services to meet her needs upon release.
PLS made written submissions to the decision maker identifying the connection between Jess’ prison incidents and her unmet mental health needs. PLS then appeared with Jess by video link before the decision makers. The preliminary refusal decision was reversed and Jess was released onto a supported parole order in the community.