Complaints against ACT Government departments and Policing jump, AMC tops list

Dominic Giannini 22 December 2020 17

ACT Corrective Services received the most complaints of any agency – all of which related to Canberra’s prison. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Complaints about ACT Government agencies and ACT Policing increased by more than 10 per cent this year, according to new data from the Ombudsman.

The largest jumps in complaints were about the Chief Minister’s Directorate, and the Justice and Community Service (JACS) Directorate which oversees Canberra’s prisons. Both increased by 24 per cent in 2019-20 compared to the previous year, receiving 123 and 121 complaints respectively.

ACT Corrective Services (ACTCS) – which sits in the JACS Directorate – received the most complaints of any individual agency, totalling 117. It is a 70 per cent increase for the agency and they were all made about the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

There were also 70 complaints made against ACT Policing during the same time period.

The new data, released in the ACT Ombudsman’s annual report, sheds further light on a prison system plagued with problems.

READ MORE: Poor discipline and violence inside AMC has guards at breaking point: whistleblower

A new committee is being set up to help address a range of challenges and gaps within Canberra’s prison after recent reports identified issues including a lack of staff training, vehicles with safety risks that were unfit for purpose, staff absenteeism and inadequate accommodation for women prisoners.

A guard has told Region Media that the high rate of absenteeism by prison officers stems from a feeling of powerlessness and frustration among guards who feel they are trying to tackle discipline within the prison with one hand tied behind their backs.

“If it goes too far and we are unable to unlock the yards, the prisoners start getting angry at us,” the guard said.

One prisoner also expressed his frustration with the lack of reporting mechanisms for human rights abuses within the prison, saying current conditions are contributing to psychological hardship, promoting the spread of disease and infection, and fostering animosity towards prison staff.

READ MORE: ‘People will die’: prisoners paint depressing picture of life inside AMC

A JACS spokesperson said ACTCS was “not aware of any reasons for the increase in complaints” but that “a significant majority of complaints do not require investigation by the Ombudsman”.

“ACTCS has worked alongside oversight agencies to ensure that detainees have better access to information about the functions of oversight agencies, including the ACT Ombudsman, and external complaints processes,” the spokesperson said.

ACT Ombudsman Michael Manthorpe said that despite the challenges of COVID-19, the office was still able to handle more complaints from the public than had been received in recent years.

Oversight provided by the Ombudsman is more important than ever during a pandemic where a record number of Australians have become reliant on various forms of government services and support, Mr Manthorpe said.

“We have a role to play in ensuring that those services are delivered in a way that is fair, transparent and lawful,” he said.

A total of 520 complaints were received by the Ombudsman in 2019-20, an 11 per cent increase from the previous year.

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17 Responses to Complaints against ACT Government departments and Policing jump, AMC tops list
jwinston jwinston 1:35 pm 24 Dec 20

Inca Serrated – I’d be happy if the government concentrated on running the jail properly instead of listening to prisoners frivolous complaints.

Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 8:36 pm 23 Dec 20

Viewed by prisoners as an ineffective body for complaints. The ombudsman is overtly disinterested and therefore unsuitable as a tool for prison oversight.

    Yogi Patches Yogi Patches 2:37 pm 24 Dec 20

    Or the Ombudsman has better things to do than deal with people who are happy to play stupid games but don't like the stupid prize...

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 6:38 pm 24 Dec 20

    Yogi Patches how much hate does someone have to carry that they would prefer prisoners to be treated harshly rather than rehabilitated, increasing community safety? It's shocking...

    Yogi Patches Yogi Patches 7:10 pm 24 Dec 20

    No hate. No desire for harsh treatment. The fact is they simply don't receive harsh treatment by any reasonable standard - they are extraordinarily well treated at AMC. Hence the lack of responsiveness by the Ombudmans as his priority is meritorious complaints by people genuinely being victimised by the government system. Prisoners very rarely fall under that category.

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 12:21 pm 26 Dec 20

    Yogi Patches can you please elaborate on that, how exactly are AMC prisoners treated well? Before you answer, it might be worth reading the ICS healthy prison review. I feel like I can comfortably say AMC is one of the worst prisons in the country regarding conditions and outcomes. Do you have information to the contrary?

    Yogi Patches Yogi Patches 1:21 pm 26 Dec 20

    Not that I care to share in a public forum. Believe what you like mate it's no difference to me.

    I hear they are recruiting staff, that might be a nice learning experience for you.

    Shaun Rivera Shaun Rivera 2:30 am 30 Dec 20

    You have no idea

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 11:48 am 01 Jan 21

    Shaun Rivera please elaborate...

    Shaun Rivera Shaun Rivera 3:13 pm 01 Jan 21

    Inca Serrated my comments were for yogi patches. I agree with all of the comments that you have made about prison

    Shaun Rivera Shaun Rivera 3:15 pm 01 Jan 21

    Yogi Patches has no idea

    Yogi Patches Yogi Patches 4:03 pm 01 Jan 21

    Jay Cee he's right, ive no idea

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 6:57 pm 02 Jan 21

    Shaun Rivera good stuff 🙂

    Inca Serrated Inca Serrated 6:58 pm 02 Jan 21

    Yogi Patches very mature of you to acknowledge. See, we're getting somewhere 😆

Michael Wittman Michael Wittman 11:27 am 23 Dec 20

Prisoners whinging about prison..who would have thought 🤔

ssek ssek 9:40 am 23 Dec 20

People in jail don’t like it there. Waaaah.
How are these complaints not immediately binned?

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