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Adrian Pickett was Tortured in Tasmania

In 1984 a prisoner named Jamie McCrossen received 12 months in the Tasmanian prison system. He spent at least a decade within those walls, mostly in isolation and brutalised. Tasmanians were silent. And at this very moment Adrian Pickett is being held in similar conditions – we need to address the practice of torture in Tasmania’s prisons.

In the early 1990s I ran into Jamie McCrossen on the lawns outside the Risdon Prison psychiatric wing during a fire drill. In a real sense, he had disappeared from the general population in the same way Stalin had disappeared everybody he disagreed with from the public record. McCrossen had entered the system in his late teens nearly 10 years earlier, at that stage, and so I offered him a cigarette. He told me where he’d been.

Jamie McCrossen had spent around 3 years of solitary confinement in the isolated S Wing within the Risdon Prison Hospital. The guards slipped McCrossen’s meals under the door. His room had a toilet, a sink, a plastic covered foam mattress on the floor and a psychiatric blanket (a sheet sewn to a woollen blanket to prevent suicide). Most often, McCrossen had no clothes. He told me he would regularly be beaten during the night because he’d rub shit around the walls.

I asked why he did that. “Why rub shit around the walls when you know you’re going to get a beating?”

He said “because I’m lonely and it’s my only human contact.”

McCrossen told me about the abuses, the weeks and months he’d spend strapped to a hospital bed wearing a nappy – to stop him wiping his shit on the walls in a cry for human contact… and to keep him quiet. The beatings. The humiliation. The tears in the darkness as they attempted to send him crazy; a result that post-justifies the prison’s original mistreatment.

So reading an article by David Killick in The Mercury about an old friend of mine, Adrian Pickett – Inmate’s prison cell hell – chilled my spine. Justice Helen Wood, in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, has agreed that Adrian has endured nearly five years in Risdon Prison’s notorious Tamar Unit spending 23 hours per day alone in his cell, eating sub-grade food in meagre quantities and enduring arbitrary punishments on a daily basis that are intended solely to humiliate and degrade him as a human being. To break him. To break a wild human being the authorities were afraid of or couldn’t control.

The State of Tasmania and those charged with administering prisoners’ sentences have a duty of care and legal obligations including the “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” as well as the United Nations Charter on the Humane Treatment of Prisoners as signed by the Australian Government. There are also a number of criminal offences that must come under Tasmanian legal jurisdiction – serious assaults and torture of the prisoner (and any prisoner).

The result is that Adrian Pickett, a young man who has spent all but a year at best outside Risdon Prison since he was 16 years old (now in his mid-to-late 30s), has suffered “permanent psychiatric harm, including anxiety, depression, disorientation and paranoia” with the costs of this torture being reflected back onto the Tasmanian taxpayer. You do not make hardened and dangerous criminals by giving them a DVD player, television and a doona… that only makes somebody softer. You do make hardened and dangerous criminals by extended use of violence and torture within the administration of prisons.

Let us not forget that prisoners’ punishments are handed out by courts and the sole role of prisons is to secure our prisoners, not to inflict any mental or physical punishments (recognised as tortures by international convention).

Therefore I have a bold suggestion for the Tasmanian government and the population at large. The only way to STOP endemic mistreatment and prevent future torture of prisoners in Tasmania is to arrest and take before the courts the high ranking prison officials who signed off on this treatment every day of that five years. If Pickett had been raped then they would be in the Supreme Court dock… why then are those officials who purposefully breached their duty of care not being charged by the Tasmanian Police for assault and torture?

Unless we make people accountable there will be no motivation for these abhorrant conditions to cease. And make no bones about that declaration – torture should not exist in the Tasmanian prison system. We don’t torture animals; we don’t torture people.

Adrian Pickett should also be removed from the Tamar Unit and returned to the general prison population immediately. He should be given the social and psychological assistance that he needs to rejoin society. He should be rehabilitated and we should not begrudge him that avenue to reclaim his life.

The use of torture within our prison system devalues and degrades every Tasmanian. It is definitely not Justice.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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