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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 3 August 2017) . . Page.. 2455 ..

Alexander Maconochie Centre—Accommodation for female detainees

Ministerial statement

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety, Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health) (11.29): The Alexander Maconochie Centre is Canberra’s sole adult prison. It houses remanded and sentenced men and women. The level of incarceration rates continues to place pressure on ACT Corrective Services and accommodation arrangements in the AMC. Incarceration rates for women, both remanded and sentenced, have steadily increased since the AMC opened in 2009. In the last two years the numbers have increased more rapidly. Recently, the AMC has experienced unprecedented numbers of female detainees, in particular, the number of women on remand. Forecasts could not predict the extent or the speed of the rise in female detainee numbers. At its peak this year, the AMC housed 45 women.

Reliable forecasting is inherently difficult because forecasters are unable to predict what changes might occur in population trends, community factors and significant events, changes in legislation and sentencing trends. The relatively sudden increase in female detainee numbers is a development for which we were unable to plan. While last year’s successful AMC accommodation expansion project catered for the existing and forecast increase in numbers of male detainees, such a steep rise in the number of women was unforeseen.

The AMC was built with 25 beds designated for women. An additional four beds were installed to increase capacity to 29. This has left the AMC experiencing increasing accommodation pressures as existing options are insufficient to meet demand. With the AMC being the only adult prison in Canberra, accommodation needs are made more complex due to separation requirements. Increasing accommodation cannot be addressed by simply adding more beds. People who have a history in the broader community may not be able to be accommodated together. Consideration must also be given to the separation needs of the detainees and, above all, safety within the AMC.

When the prison was expanded last year to accommodate growing numbers of men predicted to enter custody there was no data to suggest the growth in women’s numbers would be so significant that capacity was likely to be reached in the near future. At the time the women’s accommodation area was only at two-thirds capacity. ACT Corrective Services has already implemented arrangements to accommodate the growing number of women. In 2017 the management unit was repurposed to house female detainees. The unit is capable of housing 14 detainees in single cells. This provides the combined capacity of the women’s and management units of 44 beds. Additionally, four health ward beds are used when necessary to accommodate additional female detainees.

ACT Corrective Services is looking at further ways to continue to house the growing number of women within the existing infrastructure at the AMC. Short and medium-term options for women’s accommodation have been identified within the

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