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Needle and Syringes – AMC

By John Hargreaves 27 June 2014 50

jail-gate

When I was Shadow Minister for Corrections and then Minister, I came to believe that the public wanted to send offenders to prison for punishment and not as punishment. It was generally accepted that there would be extra punishments dished out. I didn’t think that way then and I don’t now.

I reckon the deprivation of liberty is the punishment and that whilst we have them inside we need to give the prisoners a reason not to reoffend and not to return.

I noticed the recidivism rate out of Goulburn Jail was up around 65 – 80% dependent on the crime committed in the first place and the dependence on drugs of the offender.

We are still washing through the people who transferred from Goulburn and elsewhere to the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) so any judgment on the programs there in terms of recidivism needs to be qualified. The efficacy of these programs should be judged only for those ACT prisoners for whom incarceration is the first experience. Inmates from the NSW system, completing their sentences are still affected by the draconian system in which they were incarcerated. This is a left over from the past.

One of the things we do reasonably well is address the drug addiction of the “guests” at Hotel AMC. The presence of an independent health centre within its precincts is an effective service as it is not seen as part of the custodial services within the AMC. The therapeutic program is also paying dividends I would think.

I read a piece in the newsletter from the Families and Friends of Drug Law Reform (FFDLR) recently and it told of the tragic death of a young woman in prison. It quoted an ABC 7.30 Report item. This is recommended reading. Check FFDLR website: www.ffdlr.org.au.

The point came out that drugs will always be available in prisons no matter what we do. We are limited to trying to keep them out but addicts are desperate and cunning people. We need to try to get them off their habits and keep them safe while doing it. That’s why a needle and syringe program is badly needed in the AMC.

This program, delivered in the health centre and not by custodial officers, keeps the people safe from blood borne disease such as Hep C, HIV etc. It does not encourage people to take drugs merely keeps them safe and alive while we work with them to get them clean and keep them that way.

What part of trying to keep people safe don’t the opponents of this program get? The general public has access to a needle and syringe program, delivered by Directions ACT. So why are prisoners denied the same access?

In 1788, prisoners were sent to NSW and incarcerated. We did the same until 2004. Came a long way in that 200 years eh? Well not nearly far enough.

I want to restart the conversation and space prevents me from going into too much detail but happy to join in a chat on the matter.

What’s Your opinion?


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Needle and Syringes – AMC
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justin heywood 7:12 pm 07 Jul 14

Johnnooooo.

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said

We are still washing through the people who transferred from Goulburn and elsewhere to the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) so any judgment on the programs there in terms of recidivism needs to be qualified.The efficacy of these programs should be judged only for those ACT prisoners for whom incarceration is the first experience. Inmates from the NSW system, completing their sentences are still affected by the draconian system in which they were incarcerated. This is a left over from the past.

Perhaps you missed my earlier post, Johnno. I am interested that you imply above that recidivism is a useful criteria to judge the success of any prison reform – Goulburn was ‘inhumane’ as evidenced by its high rate of recidivism, and the AMC will have much lower recidivism rates once the traumatised prisoners from NSW ‘wash through’ under the more ‘humane’ AMC.

I think you will agree that a high recidivism rate is not only a sign of failure; it represents lives wasted, families damaged and society more dangerous and poorer.

However, I read that the ACT has the second highest rate of recidivism in the country* and that the rate of recidivism has increased markedly since the AMC opened **.

Of course these reports may be inaccurate, and please correct me if they are. But, assuming they are accurate, how do you explain it John? AMC has been open for 5 years. Are the traumatised NSW prisoners still washing through? Even if they are, shouldn’t the recidivism rate be falling, not rising sharply?

Or is it a sign that the ‘human rights compliant’ AMC, despite the flowery rhetoric and the lofty moral posturing, in fact been an abject failure. That the prisoners are in fact, no better off and the community much the poorer for it.

* Canberra Times. Crime blowout: $10m repeat offenders bill
Date March 30, 2014

**ABC online. ‘More criminals reoffending in Canberra’
By Louise Willis
Posted Tue 1 Oct 2013, 8:25am AEST

Elf 9:00 pm 06 Jul 14

Reality is the needle exchange program in the ACT is more a free needle hand out. You don’t need to hand one over to receive a clean one. The result is junkies disposing of their needles wherever they want, eg: playgrounds, drains, buses etc. They also use them in armed robberies, so in my opinion it is a huge failure. To think the AMC guests won’t take advantage of the opportunity to use them is very naive and stupid. At the moment they guard the ones they’ve got because they don’t want to lose them. If they’re sharing amongst themselves imagine the consequences if one stuffs up and loses the needle and the group suffers!

justin heywood 2:28 pm 06 Jul 14

From the OP….We are still washing through the people who transferred from Goulburn and elsewhere to the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) so any judgment on the programs there in terms of recidivism needs to be qualified. The efficacy of these programs should be judged only for those ACT prisoners for whom incarceration is the first experience. Inmates from the NSW system, completing their sentences are still affected by the draconian system in which they were incarcerated. This is a left over from the past.

Yes, that all sounds good, but the ABC reports* that:

…..in 2009-10 the recidivism rate for prisoners returning to detention in the ACT was 41 per cent, which increased to 47 per cent in 2010-11. (National average is 39%)

You predict that the success of ‘humane’ prisoner treatment at AMC will be shown by a fall in recidivism rates as those imprisoned under the ‘draconian’ NSW system ‘wash through’. How then do you explain the rising rate of recidivism? Shouldn’t the recidivism rate be falling?

If our prison has more repeat business than any other jurisdiction in Australia except the NT, doesn’t that indicate that something isn’t working?

(As the former minister, you will of course have better access to data than I do, so if the figures are wrong, please correct them).

* ‘More criminals reoffending in Canberra’
By Louise Willis
Posted Tue 1 Oct 2013, 8:25am AEST

John Hargreaves Ex MLA 11:24 am 06 Jul 14

Elf said :

You would think the Government would apply the principles of Work Health and Safety equally across the ACT workforce. Allowing prisoners to have needles is like arming them in the workplace. Surely Mark McCabe would take an hour out of beating up the building industry and take Corrective Services to task for an unsafe work area if this was allowed.

How many people commenting here would like to work in a situation that has enough dangers without needles being allowed.

Addressing Bundah as well, All people outside the AMC have access to the4 needle and Syringe Program, one centre of which is located in the Health building in Civic. This is a program which has been going for years and is intended to address Hep C and HIV while other programs address the drug addiction.

The AMC has two aspects worthy of the claim that they address drug addiction somewhat better than other custodial facilities. The first is that the AMC has a policy of treating prisoners as people not as objects and that means respect for their rights as people. Sure they have offended but there are programs aimed at addressing the cause of that offending behaviour. Check out the AMC on the Govt website.

the other is the Therapeutic community which operates within the AMC. It is there solely to address ways to get people off drugs.

The proposed NSP in the AMC is to operate within the AMC Health Centre. Michael Moore’s recommendation was not that prisoners could swap a needle for another and go back to the cellblock, rather that the needle would be available within the Health Centre under the supervision of a nurse or case worker who would ensure that the prisoner is OK. This is a health issue not a custodial one.

Elf 9:35 pm 05 Jul 14

You would think the Government would apply the principles of Work Health and Safety equally across the ACT workforce. Allowing prisoners to have needles is like arming them in the workplace. Surely Mark McCabe would take an hour out of beating up the building industry and take Corrective Services to task for an unsafe work area if this was allowed.

How many people commenting here would like to work in a situation that has enough dangers without needles being allowed.

bundah 5:52 pm 05 Jul 14

You say that the general public has access to a needle and syringe program and yet prisoners don’t. You also say that one of the things they do reasonably well at the AMC is address the drug addiction problem of prisoners.Do you have any statistics that attest to that?

To the best of my knowledge anyone going to a rehab facility with a drug addiction issue, outside of prison, doesn’t get access to a needle and syringe program and nor should they.

It is clear that we live in a society where the pollies aren’t prepared to get tough and tackle this unacceptable situation for it’s far easier and cheaper to turn a blind eye and give the criminals what they want. Recidivism is effectively allowed to rear its ugly head and the pollies/do-gooders have effectively condoned this scenario through their limp-wristed approach!

John Hargreaves Ex MLA 4:26 pm 05 Jul 14

justin heywood said :

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

See my previous post. Pollies routinely check the papers for a sense of what the community is saying, even given that it is biased, depending on what paper or TV/radio show applies. Checking such information does not infringe on anyone’s rights – I have never divulged any person’s name, merely the demographic. However, some things stick in the memory. The demographic of the retired/age status of a group of people in the community voicing opinions is a reasonable way of gauging whether community sentiment is reflected by that demographic, particularly if compared to other demographics.

Nice dodge there John. Just because YOU didn’t divulge the information you obtained doesn’t make it OK that you used it yourself. What public good could you possibly claim that justifies you checking out who they are?

In a previous thread you accused posters of hiding behind their usernames, and cast aspersions on the parenting of a poster who had disagreed with you. I for one am glad that I don’t use my real name on here. I certainly don’t want someone like you knowing all my details.

As I have said at least twice before, I did not retain any information on constituents or indeed anything which was not of my personal possessions on leaving the Assembly.

Such anger is unbecoming The conversation I wanted to have was about a needle and syringe program in the AMC, it was not to invite personal attacks on me by people who have a fixation on Labor leaning people. We have a right to express our views without vilification. Your post and that of Masquara border on libellous. Spleen venting is in fact contrary to the posting criteria on Riot Act.
I suggest that you reacquaint yourself with those criteria. I shall not engage with such in the future.

John Hargreaves Ex MLA 4:20 pm 05 Jul 14

bigfeet said :

John Hargreaves Ex MLA Can I please go back to your original post? I think this is where the problem actually lies.

When I was Shadow Minister for Corrections and then Minister, I came to believe that the public wanted to send offenders to prison for punishment and not as punishment. It was generally accepted that there would be extra punishments dished out. I didn’t think that way then and I don’t now.

The problem is anyone who becomes a MLA or an MP or a Senator, or any other elected official tends to forget that it is just a job. And like any other job, the job description is to do what your employer tell you to do.

I guess because politicians are basically on a term contract they can sit around and not do what their employers require of them but really, collecting a wage whilst not doing the job you are paid for is tantamount to fraud.

Don’t like what your employer want you to do? Fine, exercise the right that every Australian worker has…resign and work somewhere else.

I disagree with the view you post but support your right to express it. That you have done so with courtesy, does you credit.

John Hargreaves Ex MLA 4:18 pm 05 Jul 14

jcitizen said :

John Hargreaves Ex MLA said :

dungfungus said :

Mysteryman said :

James_Ryan said :

dungfungus said :

James_Ryan said :

dungfungus said :

For those of you who demand “informed comment” (by an academic, no less) about how prisoners can become drug free read this: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/how-to-make-jail-drugfree-20120828-24yim.html

Mr Williams was rightfully lambasted for the ill-informed opinion you have linked, and hasn’t ventured near the issue since.

Perhaps you can provide some links to the “lambasting”.
It’s hard to please a lot of people on this blog. When they plead for informed comment and it is offered then someone else says it is ill-informed.
It would appear from your comments on this thread that you are some sort of a crusader for clean needles so I can understand your criticism of anyone else’s opinion that opposes yours.

“An academic, no less” writing opinions well outside his area of expertise does open himself up somewhat when he ignores the evidence and leads with his backside..

It worked for Richard Dawkins. I don’t see why it’s a problem here.

Spot on!
And since when did any opinion in the CT Letters to the Editor carry any weight?
All there is these days is an organised hate campaign from Labor supporters still in denial about the last Federal election result.

Not quite right. H Ronald doesn’t qualify as a Labor letter writer. When I was in the Assembly, I did a check on the demographics of the Letter writers to the CT. in 2008, 85% of those writers were retired, male and over 70 years old. I don’t see much change lately….

Firstly: How old are you John?????
Secondly: Data… How is it that the same “data” can be studied by opposing Politicians, only for them to draw opposite conclusions after running it through their own, self serving, manipulation machines?
Thirdly: Why not do health checks and drug tests for inmates entering the system, then keep the drug addicts and HIV,Hep3 or diseased blood inmates to one section and put the drug free and disease free to another? Then, One By One, clean up the addicts and once clean remove them to the cleaner side to serve out the remainder of their sentence.
You could also at least try to clean up the Corrections Officers by doing background checks as well as employ sniffer dogs and if found to be dirty then put them in with their mates, that you have caught them” BREAKING THE LAW ” for and with.
If you did not give up and say” oh well its just inevitable, drugs and prison, they go together, lets give them needles and we may as well supply them with drugs too. We could charge them money for the drugs like a “hex debt” and when they get outside they could work it off to pay for their stay or they could work for the government, you know, at least they would be the ones with an informed opinion.”
Surely the best way is to get the poison out of the system. Whether that be drugs or has-been politicians.

Answers:

First – 65 years old and have not written to the Canberra Times since retiring from politics.
Second I can’t say how other politicians use their data, only that they have access to that which I had. I repeat here for those who missed it. I don’t have any of that information and have had none since retiring. My memory is pretty good but accept that I took nothing with me which could do the things I am now accused of.
Thirdly, those tests are done on admission to the AMC. Segregation is a policy matter for the AMC. I have not had anything to do with policy for the AMV for nearly 5 years.

bigfeet 9:56 pm 04 Jul 14

John Hargreaves Ex MLA Can I please go back to your original post? I think this is where the problem actually lies.

When I was Shadow Minister for Corrections and then Minister, I came to believe that the public wanted to send offenders to prison for punishment and not as punishment. It was generally accepted that there would be extra punishments dished out. I didn’t think that way then and I don’t now.

The problem is anyone who becomes a MLA or an MP or a Senator, or any other elected official tends to forget that it is just a job. And like any other job, the job description is to do what your employer tell you to do.

I guess because politicians are basically on a term contract they can sit around and not do what their employers require of them but really, collecting a wage whilst not doing the job you are paid for is tantamount to fraud.

Don’t like what your employer want you to do? Fine, exercise the right that every Australian worker has…resign and work somewhere else.

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