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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 01 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 February 2010) . . Page.. 255 ..

If the Liberal Party had had their way, they would have taken the view “Yes, we can have as tough sentences as we like, but we won’t have to manage them. We won’t have to rehabilitate them. We’ll just send them off to New South Wales.” That was their position and that has been their position for the past eight years. Labor does not adopt that approach. Labor has remained consistent. The AMC is an important reform for criminal justice in the territory and we will continue to ensure that this facility meets our expectations of a humane and best practice prison for the ACT.

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (8.45): I welcome Mr Hanson’s motion as an opportunity to have an open discussion with members in this place on the direction of our major correctional facility and what direction that should be. Prison policy often tests progressive ideologies. It provides temptation to give in to a populist argument that prisons are solely a form of punishment rather than an opportunity to reform, address reoffending and provide inmates with an opportunity to become contributing members of our community. We firmly stand by our principles in this place. Correctional facilities, whilst certainly not intended to have a hotel experience, as some commentators have called it, are intended to rehabilitate, not simply punish.

I must say that it is disappointing that the Liberals have been running the “fill the prison” line, as I think it does demonstrate a lack of understanding of how prisons operate, how they are funded and what role they play in society. Running the “tough on criminals” ideal is also disappointing. Rather than pursuing strategies that actually reduce crime and reduce reoffending rates in the long term, ignoring the need for programs that prevent reoffending ignores the true costs of preventing crime. It is a very easy line to take to criticise the amount of money being spent on an inmate in the AMC. Filling up the prison to run it at a profit or cut back on the costs of running rehab programs is not a legitimate policy.

Prisons operate more effectively when they are not at full capacity, when there is a greater ability for corrections officers to separate prisoners where necessary, where there is not the huge pressure on prisoner services that comes with a full prison. And it is easier to develop a culture inside that assists prisoners to reintegrate into society when their prison sentence has ended.

Of course you would have prisoners come from New South Wales to the ACT where that is appropriate but it should not in any way be so that we can fill the prison. That goes against any best-practice and recognised corrections principles. Furthermore, it is more than a little disingenuous to suggest that we could save millions if we were to charge New South Wales the same rate for incarcerating their prisoners as they did for ACT prisoners prior to the opening of the AMC.

Notwithstanding any savings that can be made as a result of efficiencies, we do not want to see any cuts to services at the AMC. It is necessarily more expensive to operate a prison that more effectively rehabilitates prisoners and, as such, it is difficult to see how we could save money when we receive a fee of less than what it costs to provide the rehab services we need to provide. I do hope Mr Hanson is not suggesting he wants the AMC to be modelled on the New South Waltes prison system. The much-maligned New South Wales prison system has been criticised from all sides as one of the worst in the country.

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