Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 7 Hansard (1 July) . . Page.. 2048 ..
MR HARGREAVES (4.27): This report, in my view, is the first big step we are making towards stopping the warehousing of our prisoners and recognises the fact that the situation with ACT prisoners is no different today from what it was for British prisoners in the 1700s - stuck in New South Wales and forgotten about. I recommend that all members of the Assembly take an interest in progressing this matter.
I would like to refer very briefly to section 2 of the report, entitled "Justification for the Prison", and draw members' attention to three of the arguments in favour of an ACT prison. Of course all of the arguments put there are valid, but three of them struck me as being big. One is responsibility for our citizens. Chucking people into gaols where we have absolutely no say in what happens to them is not, in my view, accepting our responsibility. The Government's commitment to providing a prison accepts that responsibility, for which they should be congratulated. Another argument is that in a New South Wales prison, or any other prison for that matter, we have absolutely no control over rehabilitation and restoration, as the chairman, Mr Osborne, said. There is no better example of that than the recent case of a prisoner with schizophrenia who was table tennis batted all over New South Wales, much to his detriment and his family's detriment. Absolutely no good has come out of that system. As a government and as a corrective system, we sat by impotent. We could not do anything about it, so the sooner we have our own gaol, the better. Thirdly, I think it is pretty obvious to anyone who has heard anything about it or been there that the Belconnen Remand Centre needs replacement, and I do not need to go on about that.
I would like to highlight paragraphs 2.11 and 2.12 of the report, which I believe encapsulate the position the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety has come to. I would like to pay a tribute to members of the committee for moving away from the old system of retributive justice towards the restorative model, recognising as they have the continuum of the justice system that we have to address. All too often we just address the physical aspects of a gaol or sometimes the programs that go with it, and we are very sympathetic to the difficulties people there have. We unfortunately sometimes do not pay enough attention to what happens to them post-release. We need to look at the whole continuum and address those issues. If we do that and embrace full restorative justice philosophies, in my view, we will give life to best practice and lead the way in this country.
With this prison, we get only one chance and we have to get it right, so before we talk about bricks and mortar we need to pay attention to the programs that go in there and the programs that will apply to people on release. Because of the different types and classifications of problems which put people in there, it will be a very difficult prison to design. The best way to do it is to develop those programs and let those programs drive the architecture, which will drive the bricks and mortar contract.
I draw members' attention to recommendation 3 on page 15. The committee recommends that the Government move rather quickly to invite expressions of interest in the provision of project direction services. We understand that the bricks and mortar bit and the private versus public bit will happen at their own pace, but we believe that the ACT could do with the expertise of people who have had experience in developing gaols, both public and private. The Government could do with that advice and have those people develop the sorts of programs and outcomes that we all would agree on so that we can get a mind's eye of what sort of best practice prison we are going to provide.