Imprisoning Resistance: Life and Death in an Australian Supermax
Institute of Criminology, Sydney
Nominated in the True Crime Category for the 8th Davitt Awards. These awards recognise the best crime novels and true crime books written by Australian women, published in 2007. 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.