A new 80-bed minimum security facility outside the wire at the ACT’s Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) prison is a step closer with a development application lodged for the project.
The Reintegration Centre was the centrepiece of a $71 million pivot to justice reinvestment in the 2019 ACT Budget, with $35 million allocated to build and staff the facility, and provide prisoner programs.
The project, adjacent to the Alexander Maconochie Centre, involves the expansion and modification to existing buildings and structures, five new two-storey buildings, including a new entry and administration building, fencing and associated works.
An ACT Government Justice and Community Safety Directorate (JACS) spokesperson said the minimum security, cottage-style facility would house up to 80 male and female inmates and support them in their final stages of release, with the aim of successfully reintegrating them into the community and reducing their risks of re-offending.
It will maintain its own visitor centre, programs rooms and provide activities such as the external work release program and transitional release program.
The decision to build the Reintegration Centre instead of expanding the existing prison was opposed by the Prison Officers’ Union, which was concerned about overcrowding at AMC where there are more than 500 inmates.
The ACT Government says the new facility will increase the range of rehabilitation programs available to detainees, to be delivered in partnership with non-government organisations. They will include trauma and relationship counselling, alcohol, tobacco and other drug rehabilitation, and other training such as job skills to support detainees to stay out of the justice system.
The ACT has the highest rate of return prison episodes in Australia, with approximately three-quarters of AMC detainees having been there before, compared to a national average of 57 per cent.
The ACT Labor-Greens Parliamentary Agreement includes a commitment to reduce recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025, with the government allocating $3.2 million in the budget to develop a ‘world-class’ research team to help it with the task.
Other justice reinvestment measures include providing more support housing for women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people involved with the criminal justice system; expanding the ACT Bail Support Program to strengthen accommodation and employment options for people on bail; and boosting staff capacity at AMC to improve sentence management and post-release planning.
Justice reinvestment is an approach where resources are redirected from punitive responses to crime into preventative strategies and early diversion away from the criminal justice system.