In David Brown and Merideth Wilkie’s (eds.) Prisoners as Citizens: Human Rights in Australian Prisons, Craig is the only prisoner whose contribution is properly named and he is the only prisoner who has a chapter long contribution. Brief comments from other prisoners are only attributed as ‘Victorian male prisoner’ and ‘male’ or ‘female prisoners’ from various other States in Australia. Prisoners as Citizens is the principal peer reviewed academic work on the subject of human rights law and sociology in Australia.
The philosopher Paul Ricoeur aptly made the point in his Oneself as Another that ‘the privilege accorded the proper names assigned to humans has to do with their subsequent role in confirming their identity and their selfhood’, but Prisoners as Citizens does not achieve this most basic confirmation of personal identity for anyone other than Craig (Ricoeur 1992 p.29)
If a person’s proper name confirms an individual Self/identity then it is their visage which is the entry point of that Self/identity into the world with Others. The face is the site from which a human person projects their Self to Others and says “I am…” Even without words, the face acknowledges Others and can be acknowledged in turn. The face is even the site where we examine ourselves as persons when we look into a mirror. A slap in the face is a rebuke of Self in the way a slap to any other part of the body is not such a rebuke.
Far too often prisoners are portrayed cliche like in silhouette or in the shadows, or from the backs of their heads, or so they are seen from their shoulders down as if they don’t have a head or a face. Prisoners as Citizens has a front cover design of human figures posing in various positions as silhouette outlines. If people are in the shadows then they don’t have a fully recognised social character or status. A faceless person is a person who can more easily be diminished in moral consideration by Others; out of sight is out of mind. The semiotics of Prisoners as Citizens works against it’s explicit textual aims of including prisoners as equal and responsible citizens.
It is presumed, in a paternal like fashion, that people in prison would want to conceal their names and their visage. Yes, being in prison for a crime against other people or against the well-being of the community in which one lives, is to have one’s conduct publicly denounced by the sentencing processes, there is no glory in being in prison and it is nothing to be celebrated. However, being imprisoned for a serious crime is something that needs to be owned up to, and not hidden from. Of course, a balance needs to be struck between an individual’s personal and public responsibility for wrongdoing, or hiding from the reality of one’s conduct in the shadows, or having oneself turned into an undignified spectacle.
When prison administrators in Australia allow a view inside their institutions, they dictate the terms, and prisoners do not have a choice if they are properly named, properly seen or properly heard. The extent to which prisoners are allowed to be confirmed as recognisable human persons is almost always limited to pseudonyms, shadows, headless and faceless bodies.
We think it is important that all people are given a free and equal opportunity to be heard to speak in their own names and to be seen as real people facing the world, even if their past behaviour has been morally flawed. For these reasons we have included images of Craig here.
This site aims to help Craig build and maintain a support network so he can continue to make a positive contribution to the intellectual life of the community now and in the future. This site will never sensationalize or glorify crime or imprisonment. This site is not intended to offend any person, its only aim is to provide information for people who are already interested to know more about Craig Minogue.
RICOEUR, Paul. 1992. Onself as Another, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London