Page 1137 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 25 March 2015

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We have heard speeches from both Mr Rattenbury and Mr Corbell about some of the problems that exist at the jail, starting with, I guess, a systematic flow of how it works. I think the statistics show that upward of 80 per cent of people who come through AMC—prisoners, once they are on remand or sentenced—have an addiction or a substance dependence of some form or another. The question then needs to be asked by us as a community: what do we see the purpose of the AMC, Canberra’s sole jail, to be? Is it merely a facility where people are taken out of mainstream society or is it a facility where rehabilitation is a core focus, where the opportunity to change the behaviours of the past, to rehabilitate and hopefully become a law-abiding member of society should be a focus? Simply saying that what we are doing is sufficient undersells what we as a community expect of a jail and of what opportunities the people that enter into our corrections system should be given.

I think there are a number of simple steps that can be taken within the jail that would help reduce the instances of contraband coming in and reduce the likelihood of prisoners partaking in these kinds of behaviours. Shortfalls that exist include that random drug testing that occurs at the jail is done anonymously. A prisoner can be selected for a drug test, return a positive reading but authorities are not allowed to have any personal identification on that sample. All it does is provide statistical data of what proportion of the prison population is using drugs but no recourse, disciplinary action, loss of privileges or, which might be more appropriate, additional services, counselling or opportunities to enter rehabilitation programs.

It is rich to be taking it from those on the opposite side who say that they are doing all that they can to prohibit drugs from entering the prison when one of the core commitments of the parliamentary agreement entered into by the ACT Labor Party and the ACT Greens was to introduce a needle and syringe program in the jail. To members of the opposition and to the broad community, introducing needles into the jail is ultimately holding up a white flag, surrendering and saying, “Drugs are in the jail. This is a fact of life. We’re going to facilitate it rather than try and combat it.” That is the view that the vast number of people in the community share. That is the reason why it is high time a discussion was had as to what is the purpose of the ACT’s jail. Is the Alexander Maconochie Centre simply there to take people out of the mainstream community or is it there as an opportunity to rehabilitate?

The amendment Mr Rattenbury has moved clearly indicates that the focus is business as usual. It states a number of the security measures that are in place. It does not speak about any policies or strategies that have been developed in recent times to combat this legacy we have had over the past years, since the jail first commenced operation, of contraband entering in ways ranging from something as simple as it being thrown over the fence to coming in on contact visits, being brought in by visitors or contractors to the facility, or coming in with grocery or food purchases. Where are the weaknesses, what are we doing to combat these weaknesses, and what is working best in other jurisdictions?

The opposition will not be supporting Mr Rattenbury’s amendment. We think it is high time this matter was taken seriously and was made a core focus of the operation of the jail.

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