Page 2906 - Week 09 - Thursday, 13 August 2015
over budget and certainly under scope. As a matter of fact it took several months after that official ribbon cutting before the first detainee moved in there and the prison actually commenced operation. So really, in truth, it was under scope, over budget and late. The problems that plagued that prison from before its official opening continue to this day, be they capacity issues or security issues. They continue to be the problems that plague this government regarding the operation of the city’s prison.
Just today Mr Rattenbury, the minister responsible for justice and the corrections portfolio, tabled a bill that seeks to broaden the net on drug testing in the AMC. This is a long overdue change to the corrections portfolio and one that I personally have been calling for in the time that I have held the shadow corrections portfolio. What was the purpose of continuing to hold drug testing in a prison when it was purely done on an anonymous basis, when all the while we have a drug problem that is running rife? This is just a very small step in the right direction of what needs to be done to combat the ever present drug problem within the AMC.
One question I still have on this issue is why corrections officers have been exempted. I do not think the minister has yet explained in depth why, if it is an appropriate policy to be considered in our youth corrections facility, at Bimberi, for staff and detainees to be facing identifiable drug testing, in the adult facility we are exempting our custodial officers. It is a reasonable standard for our police officers to be drug tested; I think it is a reasonable standard that our corrections officers be drug tested, just like they are planning to implement at Bimberi.
All of this goes on, about trying to tighten the net on drug use in the jail, and finally there are to be some stricter checks on who is using inside our correctional facility. This is complemented—probably “confused” would be a better word—by the mixed messages that those opposite continue to send, particularly Mr Rattenbury. It is evident that this is something that is supported by all those opposite, as it is an item in the Labor-Greens parliamentary agreement—that is, to implement a needle and syringe program. So on one hand we are going to increase drug testing to help those that have a problem with addiction and who need further rehabilitation services, but on the other hand we are going to give them needles so that they can continue to use whilst they are in jail. We will help to facilitate that problem and egg it along until maybe some resources come to light. The mixed messages continue to be absolutely deafening.
You are then adding to that the additional mixed message of whether a smoking ban is or is not coming in, in the ACT. As of this week the ACT, along with Western Australia, are the only two jurisdictions in the country that have not prohibited smoking inside a correctional setting. The reason I say that this further confuses things is that you have additional drug testing to help people get off drugs, but it is a matter of saying, “We’re going to give them needles because that’s going to help their health outcomes; we haven’t yet committed to banning smoking but we all know the health implications of smoking.”
I have received a number of pieces of correspondence from both current and former detainees in the AMC who have raised serious concerns around the issues of overcrowding and then being forced to double-bunk in a facility that was always