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Jesuit spells out lessons of stockbroker Rivkin's detention

The plight of high profile weekend prison detainee René Rivkin draws attention to that of Australia's 24,000 prison population, with whom Rivkin shares much in common, according to former prison chaplain Fr Peter Norden of Melbourne's Brosnan Centre.

Celebrity stockbroker Rivkin, 59, began serving a nine month term of weekend detention on Saturday following his conviction for insider trading. But he collapsed at Sydney's Silverwater prison on Sunday, moments before prison staff were due to search for a mobile phone fitted with a digital camera.

Fr Norden said that while Rivkin is in a category of his own, he shares certain characteristics with the majority of Australia's 24,000 prison population.

"Rene Rivkin a person convicted of a non-violent offence and appears to have a history of psychiatric illness and is in need of psychiatric care."

He said that Rivkin's celebrity status ensured that he received adequate supervision and access to psychiatric treatment on his first weekend in detention.

"The same could not be said of many other inmates, including the young offender who recently suicided in Beechworth Prison [in north-east Victoria]," he said.

"This young man was not monitored, despite our warnings to the authorities against his transfer to a country prison and outlining his history of self-harm and suicidal behaviour."

Fr Norden is spokesperson for The Brosnan Centre, a division of Jesuit Social Services that was named after Australia's most famous prison chaplain.

He said that the latest Prison Census revealed that, like Rivkin, the majority of those imprisoned in Australia today have been convicted of a non-violent offence.

"Australian prisons are fast becoming the new asylums of the third millennium, with an ever increasing proportion of inmates suffering from a mental illness."

Jesuit Social Services

Jesuit Social Services
Rivkin's get-out-of-jail clause (
Rivkin could skip jail this weekend with proof of ill health (Sydney Morning Herald)
Rivkin Report

11 Jun 2003