Report to NLAF
Sub-group 1: Information, education and training
A major project for this sub-group is to develop a user friendly legal information portal on the network of computers for inmate use, being rolled out in NSW correctional centres over the next 12-18 months. The portal will include links to plain language legal information (stand alone version of the Legal Aid website), relevant legislation, information about how to get legal help in correctional centres, and potentially, the online version of the Law Handbook. This will be complemented by library resources in correctional centres/training of Corrective Services staff on legal referrals.
Corrective Services have approved the project and have matched the $5000 contributed by Legal Aid NSW to develop the legal information portal for inmates. A brief has been prepared for a web designer to develop the site and a quote received. A draft template for the portal has been designed. The template will be focus tested with inmates in March. A 'Google' like search capacity is being provided at no cost. Permissions have been granted to include, at no cost, a range of relevant legal publications on the site, including 15 chapters of the Law Handbook. Material to be included on the website is being collated.
Sub-group 2: Lawyer/ Inmate Communication
This sub-group continues to work on improving the limited access to phones in correctional centres.
The working group is looking at how phone calls are taken by legal services with the aim to allow inmates to spend longer on phones when required. A process is being worked on for transferring calls to relevant services including LawAccess, the Prisoners Legal Service (Legal Aid NSW), the Aboriginal Legal Service, and Central Sydney office at Legal Aid NSW.
There has only been one Corrective Services Legal Practitioners’ Liaison Meeting held in 2009. The Law Society of NSW is writing to Corrective Services asking to have the group reconvened.
Sub-group 3: Civil and Family Law Needs
The Civil and Family Law sub-group has undertaken a mapping exercise of where correctional centres and legal assistance providers are located. A survey was conducted and there is now information on what services are currently being provided and where, and legal assistance providers willing to provide services in future. The key survey data has been added to the map. By reviewing the various locations on the map you can see the gaps in coverage. The working group is meeting on 8 March 2010 to review the map and more detailed data to identify those gaps and any further information to be gathered, such as talking to current providers about their experiences of what has worked and what has not. The working group will also be discussing the workshop detailed below.
A full day workshop is being held at Legal Aid NSW on 25 March 2010 to cover some of the more complex civil law issues affecting inmates. The workshop will also include a session to discuss the survey and mapping exercise noted above and to facilitate a more coordinated approach to the delivery of civil law services in correctional centres. Invitations to the workshop will be sent to community legal centres, private practitioners and legal aid civil law staff who are currently undertaking these outreach services, or who have expressed an interest in doing so. Invitations will also be sent to private firms who are interested in accepting referrals to assist inmates.
Timeframe of the working group
The next main group meeting is scheduled for 4 March 2010. The group is particularly keen to see the legal information web portal progress, settle process for better inmate/practitioner communication and allow the work attached to the mapping exercise to be completed. Positive working relationships have developed with senior staff at Corrective Services and these relationships will hopefully continue once the working group is dissolved.