Human connection is healing. That’s why, according to the Corrections Act, every person in prison has the right to send and receive letters, uncensored by prison staff.1
We know that, when it comes to preparing people to successfully re-enter their communities, what works is recovery and restoration—not pain and punishment. And we know that pen pal programs can play an important role in this rehabilitation.
But, in Victoria, the Deputy Commissioner has decided that “prisoners will not be permitted to participate in organised pen pal programs”.2
This is cruel and unnecessary. It puts Victoria at odds with other Australian states, and countries around the world, where pen pal programs are not just allowed but, in many cases, actively encouraged.3
In Victoria, the Deputy Commissioner has instructed staff to “assess the appropriateness” of unofficial pen pal arrangements based on arbitrary factors including “the pen pal's circumstances, the prisoner's offences, notoriety, [and] prison behaviour”.
Human rights are just that—rights.4 Nobody should have the power to take them away on a whim.
Letters can be a lifeline; an antidote to isolation and despair, and a bridge to effective recovery and reintegration.
Urge Deputy Commissioner Brendan Money to immediately reverse the ban on pen pals for people in prison.
Read the full letter to the Deputy Commissioner, prepared by the Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria.
1. Corrections Act 1986 (Vic)
2. Deputy Commissioners Instruction 4.07 - Prisoner Communications
3. Jacqueline Hodgson and Juliet Horne, ‘Imagining More than Just a Prisoner: The Work of Prisoners’ Penfriends’ (18 April 2015) Warwick School of Law Research Paper No. 2015/12.
4. Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities 2006 (Vic)