Canberra prison will be corrected

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Minister for Corrections Mick Gentleman. Photo: Rod Henshaw

THE ACT government has claimed it has found solutions to overcome complaints from both staff and detainees over the management of Canberra’s prison.

An oversight committee has been formed to fix major issues at the Alexander Maconochie Centre and the court transport unit that maintains transport and security to escorts offenders between the courts and cells.

New Minister for Corrections Mick Gentleman has been talking to corrections staff and their union on working conditions over “gaps that need to be filled”.

He has also been considering reports from the Inspector of Corrections and the implementation of the recommendations.

Training gaps that have coincided with riotous behaviour inside the prison have been blamed on staff numbers and poor rosters despite claims of “effective, up-to-date training” being in place.

“Due to a lack of staff in certain timelines, they haven’t been able to release staff to do the training and that has put pressure on everyone else,” Mr Gentleman said.

“It’s important that we have the right amount of staff, so they can be released to do that important training and look to the future for our staffing needs.”

The oversight committee is hoping to set a blueprint for change at dealing with staff.

Rosters to accommodate shift work and pressure on completing overtime were two of the biggest grievances.

Staff have also said to have struggled with the management style of ACT Corrective Services commissioner Jon Peach.

“They have said they’d like to see a better system of management with staff in the future,” Mr Gentleman said.

“They have showed me where the holes have been in staffing at posts at AMC and in particular pressure on when people have been taking leave and they haven’t been able to fill them.”

Mr Gentleman denied the animosity between prison staff and Mr Peach will not put his leadership under threat amid the review of proposed changes.

“I have confidence in the way that management is occurring at AMC,” he said.

The oversight committee that will look to implement the minister’s vision will have an independent chair and representation from unions, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders groups and official visitors in light of a number of “nasty” incidents that occurred at AMC last month.

Mr Gentleman denied there was a missed opportunity to not have representative on the committee for women considering the inappropriate accommodation of women detainees among the male population at the facility.

“They (women) will have representation from our official visitors,” he said.

“They represent the whole population at AMC and I am sure the feedback from detainees will be put forward through the committee through those representations.”

A Human rights committee will continue to lobby for prisoners that they accused do not have recourse on actions inside the prison.

They are unable to take individual human rights complaints through the ombudsman or correction services if its not policy and not a systematic issue.

The minister said prisoners will have recourse through the official visitors’ program that does not rob them of an independent oversight.

“It means issues related from detainees will be able to put through,” Mr Gentleman said.

The MLA for Brindabella has taken over the corrections portfolio from Greens leader Shane Rattenbury that was heavily criticised for his role in the last coalition government.

But Gentleman, in government with the Greens, did not want to open up old wounds.

“I’m looking for the proper solutions to support staff into the future; I’m not worried about what’s occurred in the past,” he said.

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