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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2047 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the issue of whether the ACT should have its own prison has been considered in numerous reports over the past 15 years. I think it is important to point out that all those reports have recommended that a prison should be established. The overwhelming majority of submissions received by the committee supported the need for an ACT prison based on a combination of solid economic and social arguments. Not only would having our own prison create enormous benefits; it would also greatly benefit prisoners and their families.

One of the reasons for sending people to prison is the hope of some sort of rehabilitation. An ACT prison would afford the Canberra community greater control over the rehabilitation and restoration process of its prisoners instead of leaving this up to either Goulburn or Junee. The committee believes that there is no justification for allowing the situation to continue where a large number of prisoners come out of prison with greater emotional or physical damage than when they entered. While having our own prison will not solve all our problems in this area, it will at least ensure an integrated approach to individual case management.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence the committee heard in support of a prison came from family members of prisoners and prisoner support services. It is almost impossible for families to maintain regular contact with ACT prisoners sent to New South Wales gaols, except perhaps those sent to Goulburn. As an example, for families without cars, a trip using public transport to Junee takes up to about six hours and requires an overnight stay and a half-hour walk from the township to the prison facility. The committee accepted evidence that lack of regular contact between a prisoner and their family is detrimental to the prisoner's rehabilitation and for the readjustment of the family unit upon the release.

Finally, having our own prison would also mean that we could finally do away with the poorly designed and substandard Belconnen Remand Centre. The committee has made three recommendations in support of an ACT prison, including a recommendation that the Government continue to consult with the committee on major decisions.

As would be expected, there was a high level of interest in where a prison will be sited in Canberra. At the Minister's request, the committee agreed to participate in the site selection process. The Government came up with six possible sites, to which the committee added another four. The 10 sites covered each electorate. The committee has visited each potential site several times and judged them according to the Government's siting criteria for a 300-bed facility. These criteria cover aspects such as size of the site, distance from the city, public transport, environmental issues and infrastructure costs.

To cut a long story short, the committee has recommended that the Government consider building the prison at either the Kinlyside or Symonston sites. Both sites have small advantages over the other areas, but the committee believes that both would serve equally well. The Symonston site would be cheaper to develop, but there are a number of environmental concerns. Kinlyside rated well against each of the selection criteria but would be more expensive to develop. The government member on the committee, Mr Hird, initially suggested that Kinlyside be considered as a potential site, but no longer - surprise, surprise - supports it as a suitable location. I commend the report to the Assembly.

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