Website gives free voice to lowlifes of jail system
THREE South Australian murderers, a violent rapist and a gunman are using an Australian website to communicate with the outside world from prison and authorities appear powerless to stop them.
Unable to use social media while in jail, the inmates send conventional letters to prisoners’ advocacy group Justice Action, based in Sydney, which then posts their material online.
The revelation has prompted anger that the internet loophole provides a freedom that violates the rights of victims.
But Justice Action won’t remove the posts and says prisoners have “a right of expression”, despite the protests of the Correctional Services Department.
The Justice Action website — called iexpress — was created to give inmates across Australia a voice to aid in their rehabilitation.
South Australian prisoners who have posted on the site include former soldier Damon Karger, jailed for the 1998 murder of Campbelltown mother Kerry Ostendorf; Peter David Copeland, who murdered a man for touching his genitalia in 1995; Robert James Andrews, who is serving a 22-year non-parole period for strangling his girlfriend in 1994; and Paul Michael Radford, who was jailed for two separate rapes of teenage girls.
Gunman Tony Douglas Grosser, jailed for attempted murder after shooting STAR Group police officer Derrick McManus during a 40-hour siege at Nuriootpa in 1994, is also on the site and has labelled his iexpress profile: “From rapid fire gunman to prison pastor”.
He was given a 22-year sentence with an 18-year non-parole period and parole was denied in December, 2013.
He says he has found religion and has written about how God has appeared to him in prison.
Prisoners have an approved list of people they can send letters to.
Hoddle St mass murderer Julian Knight caused outrage in Victoria when he used the website to post photos and poems. Andrews has used the site to protest his innocence.
Victims’ Rights Commissioner Michael O’Connell says the families of murder victims were appalled that killers could have such freedom on the net.
“I have a problem with websites or other mediums that po-
LEFT Convicted for the attempted murder of STAR Group police officer Derrick McManus at
Nuriootpa on May 3, 1994. Sentenced to 22 years jail with a non-parole period of 18 years.
RIGHT Convicted for the murder of Campbelltown grandmother Kerry Ostendorf on January 17, 1998. Sentenced to life imprisonment with
a non-parole period of 22 years. Convicted for the murder of David John Thomas, 38, on September 29, 1995.
Sentenced to life imprisonment with a nonparole period of 22 years.
Convicted for the murder of his girlfriend Christine Jenkins, 44, at Ferryden Park in December 1994.
Sentenced to life imprisonment with a 22-year non-parole period. Convicted for the rape of two girls — aged 14 and 15 — in two separate incidents in 1994 but was not arrested until 2009. Sentenced to serve at least
10 years behind bars. tentially allow offenders – some of whom have committed heinous crimes – to violate victims’ rights,” he said.
“I know some victims and families bereaved by homicide are appalled that offenders can even access the internet, let alone post web pages pleading for pen pals (or) compassion.”
Justice Action co-ordinator Brett Smith said the website would not post anything from a prisoner that was defamatory, aggressive or offensive.
“All these rights they have as human beings are reflected (in this website). Prisoners should have a right of expression,” he said.
A spokesman for the Correctional Services Department – which successfully had Snowtown serial killer Robert Wagner’s profile removed from US website Prison Pen Pals last August – said it had an “unwavering commitment” to protect the rights of victims.
“This website is counterintuitive to that commitment and is not in any way supported by the department,” he said.
On the site, Karger, serving life with a non-parole period of 22 years, talks about his love of video games.
“Given the chance I will build my own low-power gaming machine,” he wrote.
Copeland has used the website to help find his estranged family and write about his own troubled past.
“I was physically and sexually abused in my youth a number of times and I never told anyone,” he wrote.
“I was too ashamed, too scared to even mention it ... both abusers destroyed everything that could have been.
“I began to rely on alcohol and drugs ... and lost contact with my family. I would now like to locate them so that I can apologise and ask of them to renew contact.” email@example.com PAGE 16: EDITORIAL