Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 August 2021) . . Page.. 2196 ..
I recognise the negative impact that searches can have on detainees, and that this is especially so for women. Women offenders often have higher levels of complex trauma, family and sexual violence, and disadvantaged backgrounds. As a government we are committed to providing appropriate supports to female detainees at the AMC. However, searches need to take place at times to ensure the safety and security of staff and detainees at the prison.
ACT Corrective Services is currently procuring a body scanner which will mean that in future the number of strip searches of detainees will be minimised greatly. This is good news and will be welcomed by detainees and staff alike, as searches can be uncomfortable for all parties involved.
MS CASTLEY: Minister, why is there an unacceptably high level of strip searches that occurred under your watch, and, even worse, the close to 50 a month under Mr Rattenbury?
MR GENTLEMAN: Between October 2019 and 30 June 2021—these are the stats I have—51 per cent of searches on female detainees were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female detainees; 49 per cent of the searches were non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees. These searches resulted in 12 detections of contraband, eight on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females and four on non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females. In terms of population on 30 June 2021 there were 21 female detainees at AMC.
Searches are used in correctional facilities right across the world to ensure the safety of staff and detainees. If searches occur at a rate—which is particularly when they are moving. So, for example, if detainees are going to a court appearance, then they will be searched before, and sometimes after the court appearance too, to ensure there are no foreign parts on their body, for the safety of all concerned.
DR PATERSON: Minister, can you further outline how the government is committed to ensuring safe conditions for female detainees?
MR GENTLEMAN : As we heard from the Minister for Women, Ms Berry, this morning, we are working as best we can to support women detainees in the AMC, whether it is their personal situations with searches or whether it is their situation for accommodation within AMC. We have moved women back to the purpose-built facility at AMC. The recent visit I had with Minister Berry gave us some very good feedback from those detainees about the quality of life they are now having at the AMC. There is more work to do, though. We need to provide more opportunities for learning amongst that cohort and more opportunities for privacy as well.
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders—incarceration rates
MR CAIN: My question is to the Minister for Corrections. Minister, in a roundtable with you and other ministers, Aboriginal leaders were asked to determine what form the investigation into Indigenous over-representation in the justice system should take. They unanimously requested a commission of inquiry. In response,