Mother's prison funeral leave denied – to farewell 13-year-old son

In one of the more disgracefully heartless decisions by Western Australia's Department of Corrective Services (DCS) Geraldton's Greenough Regional Prison inmate, Jodie Brown had her prison leave to attend her young child's funeral pulled at the eleventh hour. In recent weeks Greenough Prison endured fallout from the fact two prisoners escaped while at the same time the local Yamatji community complained of deteriorating conditions at Greenough.

Gerry Georgatos The Stringer 8 January 2014

Ms Brown's application to attend the funeral of her 13-year-old son had been approved. But DCS – the Department of Community Services decided to crackdown on prison leaves and transfers following the fallout from the recent prison escape. However many are asking why would an approved funeral leave – for a grieving mother – be included in any such crackdown. The escapees have been recaptured.

Ms Brown's son died in hospital on December 13, four days after falling from a tennis club roof trying to retrieve a ball.

DCS Commissioner James McMahon overreacted by cancelling all non-essential prison transfers rather than exclusively holding to account their own security, and the private security contractors - SERCO, though it has been reported that SERCO is facing up to a $200,000 penalty for the double escape.

The draconian heartlessness and cruelty in reneging on Ms Brown's funeral leave approval was exacerbated by the fact that on the day of the funeral Ms Brown was preparing to attend. A family friend, Jane Richards said that Ms Brown was told at the eleventh hour that she would not be allowed to attend. Ms Richards received a frantic phone call from Ms Brown only 20 minutes before the funeral was to commence.

"It was heartbreaking, Jodie was hysterical and distraught," said Ms Richards.

"It had all been approved and then they came in and said to her she could not go because of the escapees."

"It was a knife into her heart, the fact she would not get the chance to say goodbye to her baby."

"You just can't say yes to someone going to their child's funeral and then in the last hour take it away."

Ms Richards said there are no ins and outs to all this – "It was beyond wrong." She said that family members and the community-at-large are angry.

Former Greenough Prison Aboriginal Visitors Scheme officer, Joyce Capewell said that "it is disgraceful a grieving mother would be denied the natural right to attend the funeral of her 13-year-old son."

"People are very angry here in Geraldton, I imagine everywhere. What a mess our prisons are in, what a mess Greenough (prison) is in to deny this poor mother the right to farewell her child."