Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 October 2021) . . Page.. 2762 ..
MS LEE: As Mrs Kikkert has noted, the inspector found that immediately preceding the strip search of detainee A, as she was referred to in the report, she was subjected to a planned use of force involving four corrections officers equipped with full tactical PPE and conducted with the intent to forcibly strip search her. Following a prolonged struggle, detainee A submitted to the strip search and was handcuffed and taken to a bathroom where the strip search occurred. The inspector concluded that there was no doubt that the strip search, and the manner in which it was conducted, would have been a highly traumatic incident, particularly given her recent experience of sexual assault, her ongoing mental health concerns and her considerable pre-existing medical conditions relating to her heart and lung, all of which were known at the time of the search.
The report also concluded that there was a clear breach of the Human Rights Act, an act that Labor had promised to uphold within this facility when it was first established. When then Labor Chief Minister Jon Stanhope opened the Alexander Maconochie Centre in 2008, it was hailed as Australia’s first human rights prison. It was designed to provide an experience for detainees that resembled normal life, with a unique mix of cell blocks, domestic-style cottages and a transitional release centre to provide a sense of humanity to detainees held in the facility against their will—the facility of course being named after the great penal reformer Alexander Maconochie, a former governor of Norfolk Island. The minister’s inept management of this facility stands in contrast to the principles which Governor Maconochie stood for and on which the facility was founded.
When the AMC first opened, then Attorney-General Simon Corbell said that facility was a special prison that represented the denunciation of the idea that harsh conditions were part of a prisoner’s punishment. He said:
The enduring idea was that everything from boredom to violent assault and rape, dreary and demoralising environment, lack of activity and isolation are all somewhat part of the sentence. The government is proud and unabashed in our denunciation of that idea. It is barbaric and inhumane.
I wonder what Mr Corbell thinks of the AMC under the management of this Labor-Greens government today!
Whilst we can only wonder what he thinks, we are under no illusion about what former Labor Chief Minister Mr Stanhope, thinks. Mr Stanhope has been very loud and very clear about his dismay at what the prison he opened has become under the watch of this Labor-Greens government and particularly under this minister. Recently Mr Stanhope said he “found it very hard to believe that such callous and tone-deaf response to such a scarifying report could have originated in the minister’s office”. But that is exactly what we see today.
In response to Mrs Kikkert’s motion in August, the Minister for Corrections refused to apologise for, or express any remorse at, the litany of failures in our corrections system under his watch. He refused to take responsibility for his record. Instead, he chose to congratulate himself on his achievements as Minister for Corrections.