ACT Council of Social Service Inc.

Justice | Equity | Social Inclusion | Reconciliation

Implementation of prison Blueprint for Change recommendations must engage community

7 April 2022

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today acknowledged the release of the Blueprint for Change staffing review of the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) and welcomed some of its key recommendations.

The ACT Corrective Services Blueprint for Change Oversight Committee, chaired by Christine Nixon AO, APM, was engaged to make a broad examination of staffing related matters in corrective services. The report has made six findings and 15 recommendations, including:

  • An external review of operational demand and staffing requirements, including a review of recruitment processes
  • Improvements to the security of the AMC environment
  • Establishment of a maximum capacity for the AMC and exploring options to reduce detainee overcrowding
  • Increasing training resources, including permanent training staff, venues and equipment
  • Establishing mechanisms that promote positive detainee engagement.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “To ensure that the AMC is a safe environment for all who live, work and visit at the prison we need adequate and supported staffing in corrective services

“Improving support provided to corrections staff should also improve outcomes for detainees. Investing time and resources for training for corrections staff will better enable them to positively engage with detainees and contribute to a safer culture for all at the AMC,” said Dr Campbell.

ACTCOSS welcomed Recommendation 13 which responds to ACTCOSS’s advocacy calling for the provision of more opportunities for detainees to engage with training, skill development, activities and programs.

Dr Campbell said: “The community sector is ready to strengthen our existing partnerships with Corrective Services to provide some of these opportunities.

“The community sector currently provides some essential services and programs within the AMC, often without dedicated funding. These include health promotion, financial literacy programs and drug and alcohol harm reduction training.

“These services need to be expanded and adequately funded,” said Dr Campbell.  

Dr Campbell said that ACTCOSS was disappointed that the oversight committee had failed to consult with detainees and the community sector in the review process but hoped that the community would be engaged in the implementation of the recommendations.

Dr Campbell said: “Staff training and concerns are integrally linked with the needs and experiences of detainees, their families and the community sector that supports them. It is critical that all stakeholders are engaged in improving outcomes for all involved in our justice system.

“Supporting staff is critical. We would also like to see similar time and investment spent on improving outcomes for detainees, particularly through the implementation of recommendations from existing reports such as the Healthy Prison Review,” Dr Campbell said.

Gulanga Program Manager, Ms Rachelle Kelly-Church, said: “ACTCOSS continues to call for a broader commission of inquiry into outcomes for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT, including in the justice system. Indigenous people in the ACT are incarcerated at 19 times the rate of non-Indigenous people and 91% of Indigenous detainees have experienced prior imprisonment.

“By not acknowledging and addressing the systemic causes of overincarceration of Aboriginal people, we are setting people up to fail again and again. The harm caused to families and communities is enormous and we need to invest in real solutions.

“We also want to ensure that Corrective Services is a safe place for all employees and detainees by ensuring that cultural safety is prioritised, and cultural awareness training is mandated and resourced for all staff,” Ms Kelly-Church concluded.

The final Blueprint for Change report: A new future for custodial services is now available on the JACS website - Blueprint for Change Oversight Committee | Justice and Community Safety Directorate.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations. Follow us @ACTCOSS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

For more information or comment, please contact
Dr Emma Campbell, CEO, ACTCOSS, on 0424 910 617 or 02 6202 7200.