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Canberra Today 5°/6° | Friday, July 1, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Ministers ‘know nothing’ about drug-party claims

Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

CANBERRA’S prison minister has endeavoured to distance himself from serious allegations of a drug-taking party culture among some corrections officers, the subject of an Integrity Commission investigation.

In a lengthy statement issued to “CityNews” weeks after questions had been put to ACT Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman, he was at pains to point out that the activity, currently under investigation by the ACT Integrity Commission, took place before his time in the portfolio.

Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman.

Minister Gentleman said: “The events alleged in the “CityNews” article on May 12 preceded my time as ACT Minister for Corrections and Ray Johnson’s time as interim commissioner and commissioner of ACT Corrective Services.”

Likewise, the former ACT Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury, has also denied knowing about the published allegations.

“This matter was not drawn to my attention during my time as corrections minister,” Rattenbury told “CityNews”.

“I am advised that the allegations have been referred to the Integrity Commission and as such I am unable to comment any further.”

The ministers’ comments come on the back of the recent “CityNews” exclusive centring upon prison whistleblower Tim Rust’s sensational revelation of how some Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) prison officers behave after hours, a story that has been confirmed by other serving and former officers.

In “CityNews” on May 12, Rust – a former senior director of operations at the AMC – lifted the veil on a long-standing culture of drug taking among some corrections officers, and accused senior staff of turning a blind eye to it.

Rust’s allegations include cocaine-fuelled staff parties, hot-tub photos with senior and junior prison staff, an affair with an ex-inmate, and attempts by prison authorities not to fully investigate the substance of the allegations levelled against the officers.

Gentleman said he first became aware of the events after he read about them in ”CityNews”.

Given the matters raised in the article were now the subject of an Integrity Commission investigation, Gentleman declined to provide further comment on the substance of the allegations.

“Matters before the Integrity Commission are subject to strict confidentiality provisions, as set out in the Integrity Commission Act 2018 (ACT),” he  said.

“Senior officials have a mandatory obligation to refer certain matters directly to the Integrity Commission. 

“In the interests of meeting confidentiality restrictions, I could not be briefed on matters already before the Integrity Commission.”

Rust, who left corrective services in April last year and now lives in NZ, told “CityNews” that the drug culture was already well established before he was employed at the AMC as head of security in 2017.

He said it was widely known among prison staff that private drug parties were being frequented by a core group of 10 prison officers.

“To my knowledge, all the staff that used to attend such parties, and who may still do so, are still employed at the AMC,” Rust said.

As reported by “CityNews”, Rust, 53, became aware of the extent of drug use among prison officers through a colleague who had attended one of the drug parties, was offered cocaine but declined it and left.

“He said that cocaine was being used on the tables, it was being snorted by the staff there,” said Rust.

“He was able to name the staff – there were 10 of them – we know who they are and he put it in an integrity report, and it went nowhere.”

In response to the suggestion that a culture of drug taking existed among some prison officers, Gentleman said he did not condone this type of behaviour.

“While I can’t comment on allegations that are currently subject to an Integrity Commission investigation, I want to reassure Canberrans that neither ACT Corrective Services nor I tolerate staff breaking the law,” he said.

“The allegations are not reflective of the culture we want to support in ACT Corrective Services nor of the conduct of the vast majority of ACTCS staff.”

Recognising that the operation of the prison has been the subject of unwanted attention, Gentleman emphasised he is working with Commissioner Ray Johnson to improve workplace culture and morale within Corrective Services, pointing to the work currently undertaken in the area. 

“My priority in the portfolio remains improving conditions at the AMC for staff and detainees,” Gentleman said. 

“I am pleased by the progress made so far and commend the work of the new Commissioner Ray Johnson in instilling new hope and stability into ACT Corrective Services.”

Prison staff shock: alleged drug parties and cover ups

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Belinda Strahorn

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