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Prison paper publisher pursues SA legal action

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A prisoner advocacy group is pressing on with legal action against South Australia’s Correctional Services Department following a decision not to allow prisoners access to a newspaper offering federal election information.

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Detainee advocacy group Justice Action said 40,000 copies of the JUST US detainee newspaper were distributed to prisoners across Australia in April.

But it said SA’s Department for Correctional Services had refused to accept it and the issue would now proceed to a Supreme Court hearing in Adelaide on Friday.

Justice Action coordinator Brett Collins said the group had also sought an urgent meeting with new SA Correctional Services Minister Joe Szakacs.

Collins said the JUST US publication was an exercise in social inclusion and constitutionally protected by the entitlement of political parties to communicate with citizens everywhere.

“Additionally it carries the right of people in prisons and locked hospital wards to engage in the political process and cast an informed vote,” he said.

But in a written response to the group, the department’s chief executive David Brown stood by its decision not to distribute the newspaper.

“In my opinion, the document contains provocative and inflammatory material that may inflame or incite unrest amongst prisoners or otherwise inspire conflict,” he said.

Brown said all prisoners had access to mainstream print, TV and radio media to receive election-related information and were provided with all official election material.

A spokesperson from the Department for Correctional Services told InDaily last week the department was “committed to ensuring that all eligible prisoners are able to vote in the upcoming federal election”, with voting facilitated in a “fair, neutral and unbiased manner”.

“The Department will respond to the law firm representing Justice Action accordingly,” the spokesperson said at the time.

In SA, all prisoners serving a sentence of less than three years can vote in the May 21 federal poll.

The matter is set for a Supreme Court hearing on Friday.

 – AAP 

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