The ACT Government is to spend nearly $17 million on the Territory’s jail to boost security, including a new intelligence unit, and expand health services for Indigenous prisoners.
Minister for Corrections Shane Rattenbury said the Government would commit $8.8 million over the next three-and-a-half years to enhance security at the Alexander Maconochie Centre following a number of recent reviews.
The Government will also spend $8 million over two-and-a-half years on a new model of health care for Indigenous prisoners as part of its response to the Moss Review into the death in custody of Stephen Freeman.
Indigenous detainees, which make up 21 per cent of prisoners at the AMC, will be able to choose between ACT Health or Indigenous health service Winnunga Nimmityjah, and the AMC’s Hume Health Centre will be extended to cater for 25 staff.
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“This new model of care will provide for a better continuation of health care for detainees from when they enter custody and on their return to the community,” Mr Rattenbury said.
The number of senior staff managing security at the AMC will be boosted, along with the creation of a new centralised intelligence unit within ACT Corrective Services that would work closely with the Australian Federal Police on issues such as contraband, organised crime and countering violent extremism.
“While the AMC has robust physical security measures in place, recent reviews have shown us that we can and must do better to ensure the good order and security of the AMC,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“These new additions will provide the AMC with a safer and more secure environment and as a result improve community safety.”
Mr Rattenbury said a greater focus on intelligence would allow the ACT to work smarter and more efficiently to address existing and evolving security issues affecting detainees within the AMC and the broader ACT community.
“The additional security measures come on top of the investment in CCTV, including the installation of additional CCTV cameras and the improvement to the quality of images that are provided by the CCTV system, made as a part of the implementation of the Government’s response to the Moss Review,” he said.
The Minister said Winnunga Nimmityjah’s holistic approach to health care at the AMC would have many benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees and also provide for improved cultural awareness and understanding for both detainees and staff.
He said Winnunga Nimmityjah Health and Community Service had already been working with female detainees and would move to full delivery of standalone health, social and emotional wellbeing services at the AMC in 2018.
The number of health and corrections staff will increase to meet the health demands of the growing detainee population, with the Hume Health Centre expanding to accommodate 25 staff and provide more office space.
Shadow Minister for Corrections Guila Jones welcomed the Minister’s move to implement the recommendations of the Moss Review but questioned whether spending more money would solve the AMC’s security issues.
“Our prison is a mess and one thing is clear: money can’t buy good governance. I call on the Minister to explain exactly how this cash injection is going to solve these types of problems,” she said.
“The Minister recently upgraded the AMC, with a large expansion project and an upgrade to security. The public were led to believe that these upgrades would solve the many problems at the AMC. Yet, here we are again – the Minister is spending more money on a problem he seems incapable of solving.”
Mr Rattenbury said he would make a further statement to the Legislative Assembly in the coming weeks about improvements to the AMC.