13 May 2021

UPDATED: Fires lit during AMC riot forces guards to use gas

| Dominic Giannini
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Alexander Maconochie Centre sign

A riot broke out at the Alexander Maconochie Centre last night (12 May). Photo: File.

UPDATED 12:40 pm: Guards at the Alexander Maconochie Centre used capsicum spray for the first time since the facility opened in 2008 to subdue a riot involving 28 detainees last night (12 May).

The incident started when a number of detainees failed to comply with orders from corrections officers and began behaving aggressively, a Justice and Community Services (JACS) spokesperson said.

OC spray, better known as capsicum spray, was used on one occasion*, the spokesperson said.

Region Media understands at least one officer’s station was burned before the riot ended and prisoners were relocated.

One accommodation unit was also damaged and is currently being assessed.

No staff members were injured and no detainees required hospital admission after medical assessments, the JACS spokesperson said.

“Officers successfully negotiated with the detainees and the matter was resolved when detainees became compliant with directions,” they said.

“Corrections officers acted quickly and professionally to resolve the incident.”

ACT Corrective Services is investigating the incident.

One guard expressed frustration that Canberra’s prison remained the country’s only prison that allowed prisoners to have lighters for smoking.

Four fires were lit across the prison during a standoff with 27 prisoners on 10 November last year. Emergency services responded to a second blaze at AMC just four days later.

According to a report from the Inspector of Correctional Services, the latter burnt so hot “boots were melting to the tiles”.

Fire damage at AMC

Plastic container in the stairwell after the AMC fire in November 2020. Photo: ACTCS.

Regional Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union Maddy Northam said guards needed better training and support in the prison.

While Ms Northam was hopeful that reviews into the prison would help address some of the shortcomings, she said urgent action was needed right away.

“Riots do not wait for reviews,” she said.

Officers were not trained to use gas to subdue the riots in November, despite it being available on site, Ms Northam said.

At the time of last year’s fires, JACS said it would train all correctional officers “in the deployment of chemical aids as part of the ongoing enhancements and increased capability of the Use of Force package which commenced initial roll out in 2018”.

*The original article referred to capsicum spray as CS gas (not OC spray) and stated that four inmates were sprayed with the gas.

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Inca Serrated8:57 pm 16 May 21

Not a very balanced article. Why are the prisoners rioting?

SNAFU. The regime are unable to manage the prison, so should get a private operator. There are several to choose from.

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