Remandees are being treated like guilty detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) according to the first review of the treatment and care of inmates on remand at the centre.
ACT Inspector of Correctional Services Neil McAllister released the review on Wednesday afternoon (20 February) with 39 damning findings and 14 recommendations, which included ways to improve the stay of remandees, especially female remandees.
According to the review, although remandees are required under ACT law to be treated as innocent, they are being treated the same as convicted detainees. Mr McAllister said regardless if some, if not all, will not be sentenced to a term of imprisonment when their charges are finalised in court, all remandees deserved to be treated as innocent till proven guilty.
The review called for increasing the amount of time for inmates to spend outside their cell, irrespective of their length of stay. The review emphasised the importance of access to visits, phone calls and email accounts for remandees to facilitate the crucial role that external support can play in what can be a highly traumatic time.
The review also found the ACT Corrective Services has never had a specific policy on the treatment and care of remandees despite being required under the legislation to have one.
Mr McAllister said the number of detainees on remand is increasing, and on any given day around four out of 10 detainees at the AMC are on remand and amongst women detained, around six out of 10 are on remand.
“Measures need to be in place to make sure, to the maximum extent possible, the inmates on remand are treated as innocent until proved otherwise,” Mr McAllister said. “It needs to be remembered that unlike convicted detainees, remandees are not imprisoned as punishment.”
The Alexander Maconochie Centre was originally designed to separate remandees from sentenced prisoners, which Mr McAllister said has not occurred for a number of years.
“This report recognises that ACT Corrective Services has no control over the number of detainees that are sent to AMC. There simply is not the option of putting up a ‘no vacancy’ sign,” Mr McAllister said.
“Whilst this review does not set out to advocate for or against a separate remand prison, it identifies a number of areas where remandees, particularly women on remand, undergo a highly restrictive regime that significantly impacts on their experience in detention.”
According to the review, female detainees are accommodated in a high-security unit that is unsuitable for women and contradicts the AMC’s design philosophy. The review highlighted further work needs to be done by ACT Corrective Services to provide women on remand with relevant programs and meaningful activities.
Mr McAllister said he would continue to engage with ACT Corrective Services to follow up on these findings.
“We have made 39 findings in relation to treatment and care of remandees, and we will continue to engage constructively with ACT Corrective Services to follow up on these findings,” he said.
“None of our findings are a criticism of the demanding work done by both uniformed and non-uniformed staff at AMC on a daily basis.”
Read the full Report here.