When I was Shadow Minister for Corrections and then Minister, I came to believe that the public wanted to send offenders to prison for punishment and not as punishment. It was generally accepted that there would be extra punishments dished out. I didn’t think that way then and I don’t now.
I reckon the deprivation of liberty is the punishment and that whilst we have them inside we need to give the prisoners a reason not to reoffend and not to return.
I noticed the recidivism rate out of Goulburn Jail was up around 65 – 80% dependent on the crime committed in the first place and the dependence on drugs of the offender.
We are still washing through the people who transferred from Goulburn and elsewhere to the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) so any judgment on the programs there in terms of recidivism needs to be qualified. The efficacy of these programs should be judged only for those ACT prisoners for whom incarceration is the first experience. Inmates from the NSW system, completing their sentences are still affected by the draconian system in which they were incarcerated. This is a left over from the past.
One of the things we do reasonably well is address the drug addiction of the “guests” at Hotel AMC. The presence of an independent health centre within its precincts is an effective service as it is not seen as part of the custodial services within the AMC. The therapeutic program is also paying dividends I would think.
I read a piece in the newsletter from the Families and Friends of Drug Law Reform (FFDLR) recently and it told of the tragic death of a young woman in prison. It quoted an ABC 7.30 Report item. This is recommended reading. Check FFDLR website: www.ffdlr.org.au.
The point came out that drugs will always be available in prisons no matter what we do. We are limited to trying to keep them out but addicts are desperate and cunning people. We need to try to get them off their habits and keep them safe while doing it. That’s why a needle and syringe program is badly needed in the AMC.
This program, delivered in the health centre and not by custodial officers, keeps the people safe from blood borne disease such as Hep C, HIV etc. It does not encourage people to take drugs merely keeps them safe and alive while we work with them to get them clean and keep them that way.
What part of trying to keep people safe don’t the opponents of this program get? The general public has access to a needle and syringe program, delivered by Directions ACT. So why are prisoners denied the same access?
In 1788, prisoners were sent to NSW and incarcerated. We did the same until 2004. Came a long way in that 200 years eh? Well not nearly far enough.
I want to restart the conversation and space prevents me from going into too much detail but happy to join in a chat on the matter.