19 March 2021

ACT prison staff to receive extra training to defuse explosive situations

| Ian Bushnell
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Exterior of the Alexander Maconochie Centre.

The Alexander Maconochie Centre, where inmate unrest continues due to boredom and overcrowding. Photo: File.

The ACT’s detention and prison staff will be sent to workshops to learn how to deal more effectively with difficult prisoners and inflammatory situations in the wake of riots at Bimberi Youth Detention Centre and Canberra’s jail, the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

ACT Corrective Services will pay Melbourne-based organisation Preferred Training Networks almost $100,000 to deliver its ‘Mad, Bad, Sad, Tears, Abuse and Threats: Dealing with Six Unwelcome Behaviours Within Government’ workshop during the next two years.

The course outline says the niche one-day workshop was designed by an organisational psychologist, and participants will learn how to deflect rather than confront anger so situations do not spiral out of control.

“Participants will learn how to deal with these behaviours in a manner that keeps any follow-up aggravation at bay and keeps your people safe,” it says.

The contract does not refer to any particular incidents, but in August 2019 seven Bimberi staff were taken to hospital after a riot at the youth detention centre, while in November 2020 AMC went into lockdown after 27 inmates refused to go into their cells and lit four fires across the prison.

Several boys faced charges over the Bimberi incident, in which staff feared for their lives.

Unrest continues at AMC, where boredom – particularly due to COVID-19 restrictions – and overcrowding make for explosive situations.

According to the course outline in the contract, workshop participants will explore psychological tools they can use when they feel intimidated or angry during encounters.

Delivered via interactive presentation, self-analysis, discussion and practical exercises, the workshop comprises four modules.

Module one is designed to help participants understand they have some control over the outcome of a situation, while module two helps participants to tailor their communication and understand how people process the same information differently, including de-escalation techniques.

Module three looks at some of the nuances of challenging behaviours, and participants are encouraged to respond rather than react to them, thus deflecting anger.

Module four covers unpredictable random behaviours and goading, and participants will learn how to ignore the urge to react, and learn tactics to diffuse intimidation.

The $98,626 contract expires on 11 January, 2023 – unless terminated earlier – with an option for another year.

ACT Corrective Services will provide the venues and determine the number and frequency of workshops to be delivered.

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Inca Serrated – here is a prisoners perspective:

“Oh look what we have here, something that doesn’t belong to me that I can steal and sell for drugs. And if I get caught I get to spend a minimal amount of time in Australia’s softest jail.”


“Oh look what we have here, someone who looks weaker than me that I can assault for no reason. And if I get caught I get to spend a minimal amount of time in Australia’s softest jail.”


“Oh look what we have here, an innocent (insert child/woman) who I can sexually assault. And if I get caught I get to spend a minimal amount of time in Australia’s softest jail.”

Got to admit – i was rather surprised that this was not a qualification that prison staff did not already possess. Its not butterflies and rainbows in the AMC or Bimberi . Difficult and dangerous people end up in there – this will obviously lead to difficult and dangerous events. Yeh?

A fantastic way to defuse explosive situations is the use of gas. I’ve been reliably told that even though there is gas in the armoury, it has never been deployed in the time AMC has been in operation.

No wonder the prisoners can do whatever they want with no repercussions or consequences.

I hear the good old night stick works wonders too.

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