The sentencing of a former corrections officer sheds light on what happens when a person once responsible for supervising detainees in jail finds themselves locked up behind bars.
The 37-year-old, whom Region Media has decided not to name, used to work as a custodial officer in Canberra’s courts and at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).
But he has had a dramatic fall from grace, committing a string of crimes that have found him locked up in the same jail where he once worked. He spends almost 24-hours each day alone in a three-by-four metre cell.
He feels at risk whenever he crosses paths with other detainees, his lawyer Emma Bayliss of Boxall Legal told the ACT Magistrates Court on Tuesday (14 September).
“Corrections officers look at him like a detainee and detainees look at him like a corrections officer,” she said.
He appeared in the court for sentencing for stealing two bicycles worth a total of $3000 that had been locked up in a storage area at the Australian National University on 25 April 2019.
Ms Bayliss said while he had spent 75 days in jail for these crimes, he had to remain in prison to await a Supreme Court trial to fight other charges for which he was taken into custody in May 2021.
She said “life was fairly normal” for her client before 2019 when he resigned from his job as a custodial officer after he claimed he was a victim of an alleged bullying incident.
Ms Bayliss said he began hanging out with antisocial peers, ended up in “a very dark place” and his life began to spiral.
She said a pre-sentence report referred to the man’s behavioural issues while in custody, but he said his behaviour was a way of protecting himself, given his previous status as a corrections officer.
“His time in custody has been exceptionally difficult,” she said.
He is housed in the management unit for his safety, which is intended for difficult detainees with behavioural problems who need supervision.
Ms Bayliss said this unit was “effectively segregation”. He had been there since May, which meant the time he had spent there was over the AMC’s policy of a 90-day limit for segregation.
She said he was supposed to be allowed out of his cell, which was three metres by four metres in size and contained a bed and bathroom, for one hour a day, but currently wasn’t getting that, so he was effectively spending 24 hours there each day.
Further, Ms Bayliss said half of the management unit had become a COVID-19 ward so the chance of him catching the virus while housed there had increased.
Special Magistrate Jane Campbell noted the man lived under “particularly burdensome conditions”, unable to contact others or participate in programs, could not access educational activities and did not have a computer.
“It is an extremely surprising pathway that [he] took at the age of 34 or 35, to have suddenly departed from a person who was clearly a contributing member of the community and working in the criminal justice system,” she said.
“No doubt his downfall has caused significant embarrassment and shame.”
The man pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and theft. Magistrate Campbell sentenced him to seven weeks’ jail, which was backdated as time served.
But he could not be released from prison as he had been refused bail over the charges he will fight in the Supreme Court.
In July, he was also sentenced for unrelated charges of burglary, theft and unlawful possession of stolen property.