ACT News

Street preacher jailed for stabbing launches legal battle for prison job

A street preacher jailed for a frenzied stabbing attack that left a man paralysed has launched legal action to land work in Canberra jail, saying he would "kill for a cleaning job".

Isa Islam admitted the turn of phrase in expressing his desire for employment had been unfortunate, but argued jail authorities had been wasting him as a potential resource.

But the ACT Government says it is under no obligation to provide employment for prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

Islam started the legal action in the ACT Supreme Court in a bid to force jail authorities to give him a job, saying he had been on a waiting list for more than one year.

He claimed the timeframe meant ACT Corrective Services had breached the Human Rights Act and jail policies.

Islam is serving a nine year sentence for a frenzied stabbing attack on his Ainslie Village neighbour outside a northside takeaway in July 2009.

The victim was left partially paralysed and reliant on a wheelchair after the blade hit his spinal chord.

Islam is currently awaiting sentence for grievous bodily harm over an assault that hospitalised another detainee.

The court heard he had been briefly moved back mid-last year, but had been returned to management after his involvement in a fight.

The court heard is Islam is housed in the management unit – which accommodates inmates who need to be segregated from the mainstream prison population - after being involved in violent incidents while in custody.

Prisoners in the management unit are subject to limited access to privileges, including employment, education, and "buy ups", where they use their own money to order groceries, tobacco or toiletries.

But Islam argued fellow management unit prisoners had been given a job, while his requests had been ignored.

Islam told the court on Monday that he had completed a bachelors qualification, and three masters degrees while behind bars, including teaching and business administration.

He has also been accepted to complete a doctorate in Islamic studies at Charles Stuart University, the court heard.

Islam described himself as a "resource" that authorities could utilise to improve prisoner literacy.

"I could be an asset to the jail," he told the court.

"I think $50 to $60 a week is quite reasonable for someone of my qualifications rather than paying an external consultant

"[But] I'd be quite happy to pick up a mop or a broom. Any offer of employment is better than no offer."

He claimed he had fallen victim to a jailhouse "popularity contest" and said he wanted to be assessed for work equitably, based on his employment history and qualifications.

Lawyers for the government said not all requests for employment could be accommodated and were not required to provide prisoners with jobs.

Master David Mossop reserved his decision.