Canberrans could be buying “jail bread” baked at the Alexander Maconochie Centre once a new industry program providing 50 new full-time jobs for prison inmates at the Hume facility gets off the ground.
ACT Justice Minister Shane Rattenbury flagged the possibility of the bread being sold in Canberra retail outlets while announcing the new industry program, which will see 50 inmates working full-time in a new bakery and expanded laundry at the prison from 2017.
Mr Rattenbury said some $7 million of the $9 million cost of building the facilities will come from savings made on another project at the prison – the current expansion of accommodation at the Alexander Maconochie Centre is ahead of schedule and substantially under budget.
“That project has produced a $7 million saving from the original cost estimate of $54 million as a result of close collaboration between Corrective Services and the project manager,” Mr Rattenbury said.
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The minister took a proposal to cabinet to use the savings to build the prison industry facility after being impressed by a similar program he saw in action during a visit to Long Bay Jail in Sydney in 2014.
“Meeting some of the prisoners who were involved in the jobs there, they had a real sense of pride, a real sense of purpose in the work they were doing,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“At the same time they were gaining skills they could use on the outside once they were released from custody, to help them rebuild their lives.”
While there was some employment inside the prison already, it was limited, consisting of work in a range of services within the jail and its grounds.
“We’re very keen to make sure that the detainees here have those same opportunities, to give them a sense of purpose, and greater structure in their day, and also to enable them to build those skills and self-confidence that can assist them in their rehabilitation process,” the Minister said.
With 424 inmates at the Alexander Maconochie Centre at present, there is a large pool of potential workers in the industry program.
Mr Rattenbury said the program would complement existing education opportunities.
“We do have the best rate of detainee education in Australia, we have the highest participation in education programs, but that’s not suitable for everybody, and it doesn’t provide all the skills that some detainees need,” he said.
While the bakery would initially focus on producing baked goods for the prison itself, this could change over time.
“Longer term one might consider the possibility of perhaps exporting them out into the commercial arena,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“I’d really love to see the day where jail bread is making it out into the market in Canberra and people can see that our prisoners are doing great work.
“I think it’d have a real niche market, there’d be a certain something about bread that was coming from the jail.”
The costs of the industry work program not met through savings from the accommodation project would be met via off-sets and cash management within ACT Corrective Services and the Justice and Community Safety Directorate.
In 2014 the Government set aside $54 million to establish up to 142 additional beds at the prison through construction of two new accommodation buildings. The first of these buildings came online in September 2015 and construction of the second facility is planned to come online by mid-2016 with construction for the industry program potentially complete by the end of the year.