Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 11 Hansard (21 October) . . Page.. 3480 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

The committee has recommended that the prison accommodate all security levels of prisoners - minimum, medium and maximum; both men and women; sentenced and remand prisoners; regional prisoners, after negotiation with New South Wales; and prisoners with psychiatric conditions and significant drug abuse problems. As such, it is vital to have as much data available as possible throughout the planning and construction process.

The ACT has the lowest per capita rate of imprisonment in the country, yet has followed the general upward trend in prison population. In fact, we had the second highest increase in the imprisonment rate in Australia in the last two years, a figure I found very surprising. Concern was expressed to the committee by those who felt that building a correctional facility in the ACT would make imprisonment a more attractive sentencing option for our courts. In the current climate, I think that this will not be a particularly serious consideration. If the Government is able to provide realistic alternatives, such as home-based detention, drug rehabilitation and early intervention for juvenile offenders, we should not see a significant rise in prisoner numbers.

The ACT has the opportunity to develop a new prison culture right from the outset. Recent overseas research has shown that the most effective prison programs target factors which trigger change in the key areas of anti-social attitudes of prisoners, the lack of control which they have over critical areas of their civilian lives and substance abuse. The committee has recommended that the guiding philosophy of the prison be directed towards rehabilitation, restorative justice, and the reintegration of prisoners into society. To achieve those goals, the committee further recommended that all prisoners and detainees should have individual case management plans. These plans would set out a clear path to achieve rehabilitation based on the development of employment, education and social skills before the prisoner is released. This approach is a far cry from the old-fashioned notion of simply warehousing prisoners.

Whilst there are several interrelating factors as to why people are initially sent to prison, the committee believes that one of the goals for each prisoner must be to give a true sense of hope for their future. For many, that will be based largely on providing basic education and employment skills. The committee also believes that prison managers should look to developing opportunities for victim-offender reparation during the term of the offender's sentence. We believe that the effects of that would be twofold: Firstly, it would greatly assist a prisoner's reintegration into society. Secondly, it would also benefit victims as they deal with the consequences of the offence.

Other factors which were considered by the committee to be important in prisoner rehabilitation were contact with their families and educating the Canberra community with a realistic view of the majority of prisoners. Most prisoners are not dangerous, nor are they life threatening; rather they are most often people who are simply reaping the consequences of poor choices which have been made over a period.

Evidence provided to the committee has shown that the quality of prison staff is one of the most significant factors in the success of a prison. This point was further brought home to the committee through first-hand observation. A common argument put

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .