Expansion works at the Alexander Maconochie Centre are now complete and detainees who were moved to a temporary jail at Symonston in mid-2015 due to overcrowding at the main prison returned early this week.
The Symonston site will remain a weekend detention institution only from this week.
Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury toured sections of the expanded jail yesterday, providing media with an opportunity to take photographs inside the jail.
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Take a virtual tour of the expanded Alexander Maconochie Centre at Hume here
The Greens MLA said the new Accommodation Unit provided an additional 112 beds, which would help to ease overcrowding issues. The new facilities, along with the Special Care Centre, which had capacity for double-bunking, would bring the total capacity of the AMC to 539 beds up from 370 before the start of the project.
There were 420 detainees in residence yesterday, with between 410 and 420 for the past month, according to Mr Rattenbury. Around three months ago numbers reached an all-time peak in the high 420s.
“This expansion project is part of a multi-pronged approach to address the increasing population pressures that we have been experiencing over recent months and years,” the Corrections Minister said.
“While in the short term we needed to expand the physical space within the AMC, we have also been working on strategies to reduce the number of people going in to the prison and the number of people reoffending post-release.
“This includes work within the Justice Reform Strategy, which is focused on enhancing the legal framework for sentencing and restorative justice as well as programs such as Throughcare, which supports detainees as they transition back into the community and programs that detainees can engage with during their sentence that address specific issues or behaviours.”
General Manager, Custodial operations, ACT Corrective Services Don Taylor said the new building would house a number of different cohorts, including detainees that would benefit from more programmatic intervention.
“I think the key thing around this and the special care centre is the capability that we’ve got now of managing the prison in a totally different way,” he said.
“By separating detainees that we think shouldn’t be together, and that’s cohorts, so we have mainstream, we have people that are a wee bit concerned about being in certain areas of the prison, and so instead of having to isolate them too much, we’ve created these environments so that we can have them running as a normal cohort in the prison.”
Mr Taylor said the prison had also hired 20 additional correctional staff.
Detainees remained locked up throughout the media visit.
The bright new section we visited included outdoor gym equipment, an interview room, a meeting room, a laundry, a large dining space featuring a kitchen and two telephones and a series of cells, with their own seat-less toilets, basic showers, televisions, desk-style workspaces and chairs. It was filled with natural light with furnishing and fittings in silver and bright green.
The views from windows were less cheerful, with most looking out onto barbed wire, electric fencing and empty, dry paddocks, though there are flowerbeds scattered throughout the prison grounds and even a BBQ facility in one of the exercise areas.
While the prisoners will have everything they need, the facilities are far from luxurious. The pillows and mattresses are covered in a tough waterproof fabric, with the latter very firm and half the thickness of a standard bed mattress. These sit on hard built-in bed bases in either bunk or twin bed formation.
The cell doors include hatches for passing medications, food and drinks through to detainees.
The Alexander Maconochie Centre Expansion Project was delivered four months early with savings of $7 million, which will be used to fund further development of prison industries within the jail, as previously reported by the RiotACT.