16 May 2024

'Paused' prison reintegration centre still in limbo, five years after original promise

| Claire Fenwicke
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Alexander Maconochie Centre

A reintegration centre was to stand outside the fence of the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

A promised 80-bed minimum security reintegration centre for prisoners transitioning back into the community still has no firm timeline for completion.

The centre was first floated in the 2019 ACT Budget with $35 million allocated to build and staff the facility, as well as provide programs.

A development application was lodged in July 2020 to expand and modify existing buildings and structures at the Alexander Maconochie Centre’s (AMC) Transitional Release Centre, as well as construct five new two-storey buildings, fencing and associated works.

It had been slated for completion in 2021.

But during his ministerial statement, Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury stated new priorities had emerged over the past few years.

“Changing circumstances and shifting accommodation priorities at the Alexander Maconochie Centre has meant that the government paused work on the reintegration centre,” he said.

“The deferral of this project has allowed us to focus on repairs and upgrades to existing critical infrastructure at the AMC, including repairs to accommodation units as a result of the storms in January 2020, and [detainee] incidents which occurred in November 2020 and May 2021.”

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Instead, the focus has been on reintegration and rehabilitation programs to help reduce reoffending rates.

About $115 million has been put into justice reinvestment initiatives over the past five years.

These include facilitating intensive corrective orders, the Yarrabi Bamirr support program for First Nations families, the justice housing program, the Ngurrambai Bail Support Program to help First Nations people receive and complete bail, and the drug and alcohol sentencing list.

Mr Rattenbury said the recidivism rate was 20 per cent below what it was in 2018, making the community safer.

The ACT Government has a target of reducing recidivism by 25 per cent by 2025.

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When the reintegration centre could become a reality is unclear.

The 2023-24 Budget contained money to develop a masterplan for the AMC to help guide longer-term infrastructure needs, including planning for a future reintegration precinct.

Mr Rattenbury stressed it was “vital” to continue developing facilities at the prison for the reintegration of detainees back into the community.

“There are a lot of skills people need, training opportunities … to give people the tools not to reoffend, to reconnect with their families,” he said.

“The government will also construct a unit for staff accommodation at AMC to repurpose space in existing buildings for use by detainees as program and education spaces.”

Work is currently underway on phase two of the ‘Reducing Recidivism in the ACT by 25 per cent by 2025’ plan.

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So what exactly happened to the 35 million originally allocated?

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