Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 September 2019) . . Page.. 3884 ..
for women detainees. It has neither the wellbeing nor the rehabilitation of our women detainees at its core, and the minister knows it.
Secondly, the minister seems to have lost all interest in the issue. At the next opportunity to spend new money on the facility, he has spent it on a male-focused, outside-the-walls facility. While prisoner reintegration and justice reinvestment is a concept that I support, the longer I have pondered this decision the more concerned I have become that there is no attempt to get the women back into purpose-designed and properly separated facilities from the men.
My concerns have been borne out by several occurrences which have come to light since the announcement in February by the minister of how he would spend the additional money he has been allocated in this year’s budget. Let us recap where the women prisoners currently live. They are housed in the male section of the prison, in one of the newer, maximum security cell blocks designed for men and in close proximity to them. The reason that the women were moved into this section of the prison was that, prior to this move, a contingent of women were housed for months and months in solitary confinement, known as the management unit. Some women were even being housed in beds in the health unit which were meant to be available for health treatment.
The management unit is designed for a different purpose. It is the facility where male inmates, predominantly, are put when they are in danger of harming each other, or sometimes when they are in danger of harming themselves. It is a single-storey unit of cells, with guards having a good view of almost the entirety of their cells through windows, including the toilets and showers, which do not even have a curtain on them.
This facility is not designed for women. Being moved into the men’s section was probably a slight improvement on it, because of the larger common area available. But there are many issues with the new accommodation. There is not a set group of guards who form an understanding of the women detainees, and there probably are not enough women guards, either.
There are line of sight issues, where the men can see the women as they move about outside the cell block. Due to the proximity of the women’s accommodation to all of the male prisoners, there is constant catcalling, goading and yahooing at the women. It has been reported to me that at least one woman has seen her rapist, who was in a nearby yard when she was moving around the facility. Many women in our prison and in prisons across the world are also victims of crime, and I have a real problem with victims being so close to their attackers. The Inspector of Correctional Services has spoken of the likelihood of re-traumatisation as a result of this.
Three women have escaped from their so-called secure compound, one of them to meet up with a male detainee in a restricted area, with one of them allegedly hanging back to engage in sex with him. They were out of sight for 14 minutes, unbeknownst to the guards. This was able to occur because of the initially inadequate fencing of the women’s outdoor area and the fact that they are now in amongst the men.