29 October 2007 marks twenty years since the death of five prisoners in a riot and fire in the infamous Jika Jika high-security unit. This book resurrects these events and invites us to learn urgent lessons in our current age of supermax and privatised prisons, detention of asylum seekers and the controversial use of indefinite detention under the banner of a 'war on terror'.
Imprisoning Resistance provides an experiential account of life and death in the controversial Pentridge Prison Jika Jika High-Security Unit in Victoria during the 1980s. One of Australia's first hi-tech supermax prisons, Jika Jika was designed to house and manage the system's 'worst of the worst' prisoners.
Several years of deaths in custody, multiple escapes, assaults, murders, prisoner campaigns and protests, hunger strikes and allegations of prison staff brutality escalated in 1987 to a dramatic protest fire that resulted in the deaths of five prisoners. The prison was closed and a series of inquiries were commissioned.
Bree Carlton revisits this uncomfortable past and reconstructs events leading up to and surrounding the fire and deaths, while critically analysing official responses to the discreditable episodes, crises and deaths that plagued Jika Jika.
Carltonâ€™s account takes us inside one of Australiaâ€™s first and most notorious high tech maximum security units, Jika Jika. Meticulous research combined with a keen grasp of narrative gives an intimate and moving account of the human costs of sensory deprivation and isolation as the dynamics of power and resistance spiral inexorably towards a protest fire that killed five men. The struggle for truth and justice contained within provides insight into the official tactics that seek to rationalise inhumane and brutalising conditions as reasonable and necessary. Although Jika Jika was officially declared a â€™human zooâ€™ and closed more than twenty years ago the lessons to be learned from its history remain acutely important today. - Associate Professor Jude McCulloch, Monash University
Bree Carlton provides a vivid and disturbing account of institutionalised violence, intensifying and deteriorating relationships between prisoners and custodial officers, systemic justifications and excuses for deaths in custody, and the ways in which various voices are represented in media and official discourses. It is a profoundly moving piece of work that enables the reader to understand, and to feel, the issues, and to better understand the human dimension of the prison experience. - Professor Rob White, University of Tasmania
Overall, this book makes a solid attempt to redress the imbalanced official accounts of the history of maximum-security confinement in Pentridge prision. It embarks on a difficult task, to contrast unofficial with official accounts of critical events...the case study of Jika provides a convincing argument for the need for greater accountability within the Office of Corrections, as it illustrates the human costs and inherent dangers of inadequate official inquiries and non-transparent prison practices and regimes. - British Journal of Criminology (2008), July 2008
Bree Carlton in Imprisoning Resistance offers a committed researcherâ€™s account of the transition from H Division at Pentridge prison in Victoria to the high security Jika Jika unit which operated from 1979 until its closure as a high security unit after the October 1987 fire that claimed the lives of five prisoners. Importantly... the book focuses on transitions and transmission, the deeply flawed attempts to transfer the problematic functions of high security prison regimes into new architectural setting and â€™newâ€™ control regimes, in part a shift from control and punishment through direct and brutal physical violence to forms of enviromental and psychological control, or what the Jika Jika prisoners often referred to as â€™mind gamesâ€™... - David Brown, Emeritus Professor, University of NSW, Current Issues in Criminal Justice, Volume 21 No 1, July 2009
Table of Contents
Foreword by Phil Scraton
Prologue: 29 October 1987, Jika Jika High-Security Unit, HM Pentridge Prison, Coburg, Victoria, Australia
Modern High Security in Australia
Imprisoning Resistance: The Politics of Modern High-Security
Disciplinary Power, Resistance and High-Security
Cultures of Violence and High-Security
Official Discourse and Official Responses to Disorder, Death and Institutional Crisis
Part One: Power and Resistance
Polarisation, Power and Prisoner Resistance in Australian Maximum-Security During the Explosive 1970s
Managing a Resistance Proff Panopticon: The Official Beginnings of the Jika Jika High-Security Unit
Contextualising Resistance: Prisoner Accounts of Power and Survival in the 'Pressure-Can'
'Rebelling Against the Dictatorial Regime in Jika' : Acts of Prisoner Transgression and Resistance
Part Two: Concealing Crisis
Descent into Crisis: The Deaths of John Williams and Sean Downie
Exonerating Institutional Liability: Official Responses to the Death of Sean Downie
Imprisoning Crises: Official Responses to the Jika Fire as Strategies of Damage Control and Concealment