There have been renewed calls for a crackdown on makeshift weapons at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) following a brutal attack that left an inmate unconscious.
David Lapito, who is serving time for assault, was found unconscious and put into an induced coma on Monday (13 January) after being transferred to the intensive care unit at Canberra Hospital.
Shadow Minister for Corrections Giulia Jones says the attack is sickening and disturbing.
“One of the great concerns that inmates and guards have been raising with me has been the number of shivs (sharpened implements) inside the prison,” she said.
“Many shivs inside the AMC are made from plastic toothbrushes, with the handle either sharpened or melted and fused with razor blades to create a deadly weapon,” she said.
“I call on the Minister [Shane Rattenbury] to cease the supply of these plastic toothbrushes and opt for more appropriate silicon ‘finger toothbrushes’ which cannot be easily abused.
“The Minister should more proactively and aggressively tackle the scourge of weapons and contraband in the prison before another inmate or a staff member is injured or worse.”
Minister for Corrections and Justice Shane Rattenbury said security at the prison is constantly being reviewed and upgraded to deal with new threats, and the number of CCTV cameras has increased substantially in recent years.
“Corrections is constantly looking at ways to make the prisoners as safe as possible. These are all constantly under review,” he said.
“We will have a look [at the toothbrush] suggestion.”
However, Mr Rattenbury said he could not confirm if a shiv was involved at this stage.
“It is not clear that there was a weapon involved with this incident,” he said. “Investigations are still continuing. Police investigations have not been finalised and there is no certainty on the assertion that has been made by the opposition.”
In an unfortunate turn of events, the prisoner’s family had not been notified of the prison attack when the 31-year-old’s father found him by coincidence in hospital.
Ms Jones said this is not good enough from the Centre.
“This is not the first time that family members have not been notified until quite late of an injury to one of their family members inside the prison,” Ms Jones said.
“The inmate has been brutally attacked with a dangerous weapon, a weapon that we could act, or the minister could act, to remove from the prison, but which has not been removed from the prison.
“It is just a matter of time before someone has an artery cut and they go out of the prison in a box instead of going to hospital.”
However, Mr Rattenbury disputed that there is a problem with how detainee’s families are notified.
“It is very regrettable the way the family found out, it is one of those extraordinary circumstances where the family was in the hospital for a completely unrelated incident,” he said.
“The corrections policy is that when someone is admitted to hospital, the next of kin is notified. At the time the family saw the detainee, the decision had just been made to admit him to hospital and Corrections were making the arrangements to contact the family.
“Corrections were following the correct procedure.”
The man is a known bikie but there is no evidence that the attack was motivated by gang activity at this time, Mr Rattenbury said.
CCTV evidence has been handed to ACT Policing and an incident management review will be conducted, he said.