Coalition has engaged Ministers in correspondence about the prison. This
correspondence has covered the following subjects:
On 22 December 2006, the Coalition sent letters to the Chief Minister, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Health a critique that the Coalition had prepared of the extent that the operational regime of the proposed ACT prison is likely to promote rehabilitation. The critique that more attention be given to measures that will promote rehabilitation, the need for co-ordination of mental health and drug strategies to promote rehabilitation and co-ordinated planning of post release services. Read the letters here.
The Chief Minister and the Minister for Health referred the matter to the Attorney-General who replied to the Coalition on 16 March 2007. Read the Attorney-General's letter here.Performance measures
The Coalition replied to the Attorney-General on 30 April 2007. In this it stated that his letter of 16 March had done little to allay the Coalition's concerns and referred to the objectives for the prison mentioned by the Chief Minister in a speech to the Legislative Assembly. The letter included a table of performance measures for the new prison. Read letter here.
The Attorney-General replied by a letter dated 28 May 2007 which referred mainly to the Corrections Management Bill which had been passed by the Legislative Assembly a few days earlier. The letter proposed that "on the complex issue of performance indictors . . . I would invite you to discuss this matter when at your next meeting with Mr Paget [the Director of the Prison Project]". Read letter here.
The Coalition replied to the Attorney-General on 1 June 2007 with a further letter. This requested confirmation that, before having further consultations on performance indicators, the Government remains committed to listed outcomes from the prison identified in the Chief Minister's speech to the Assembly in August 2004. Read letter here.
The Attorney-General replied to this letter by one dated 15 August 2007. Read letter here. This letter suggested that the Coalition discuss performance indicators with Mr Paget at a meeting scheduled with Mr Paget on 16 August 2007. The Coalition did not receive this letter until well after that meeting which, in any case, had been arranged to discuss on engagement of non-government organisations in the operation of the new prison and did not discuss performance indicators.
The Coalition sent a second letter to the Attorney-General on 1 August 2007. This requested that the Government provide the opportunity for public input into the ministerial directions, corrections policies and operating procedures for the new prison. These instruments are provided for under the Corrections Management Act 2007. Read the letter here.
The Attorney-General replied to this letter by one received on 17 December 2007. Read letter here. This letter went into the consultation process by which policies and procedures were being developed. It added that it "is not intended that these documents will be subject, in their development, to consultation with the public". The letter also mentioned that there is provision for all policies and procedures to be subject to judicial review and that they may be scrutinised by Members of the Legislative Assembly, the Official Visitor, the Ombudsman, the Public Advocate and the Human Rights Commission even if they are not made public.
Finalised operating policies and procedures are now available on the web here. The Coalition wrote to the Attorney-General on 20 January 2008 welcoming the accountability that this public notification represents. Read text here. Although many finalised policies and procedures are listed, the substantive provisions of a large number are not publicly available, they having been excluded under s. 15(1) the Corrections Management Act 2007 on the ground that disclosure "may endanger public safety or undermine justice, security or good order at a correctional centre".
In an email on 18 March 2008 to the Attorney-General, the A.C.T. Mental Health Consumer Network sought to clarify the meaning of one of the notified policies, namely the Management (Prisoner Requests, Complaints and Grievances) Policy 2007, which penalizes “vexatious or untruthful complainants”. This could well bear heavily upon people with certain mental health conditions. A copy of the email is here. The Attorney-General replied on 6 May 2008. Read letter here.
The Coalition has developed a report card of key goals and objectives against which it will be possible to monitor and report progress. See Report Card here. The Coalition wrote to the Chief Minister on 25 October 2007 informing him of this action and invited the Government to provide input and comment. Read letter here. The Chief Minister declined this invitation in a letter dated 10 December 2007. He stated that "the Prison Project has been subject to close government scrutiny since its inception. There will be mechanisms established within government to monitor and review the AMC's operations against policy and operational objectives, as part of normal audit and review processes. Read letter here.
In a letter dated 12 February 2008, the Attorney General invited the Coalition to nominate a representative on a proposed Community Reference Group, "which will comprise a number of relevant non-government organisations". Read letter here.
Before accepting the
invitation, the Coalition wrote to the Attorney-General on 2 March 2008
inquiring about the terms of reference and the proposed membership of the
Reference Group. Read letter here. The
Attorney-General replied by a letter on 16 April
2008 which was after the first meeting which a nominated a representative of
the Coalition attended. While grateful to have a representative on the Group,
the Coalition wrote again to the
Attorney-General on 6 May 2008 expressing its concern that it included no
consumer voice. The Coalition requested that Justice Action and the Women and
Prison Group be represented. As a result, a representative of the Women and
Prison Group was appointed to the Reference Group.
At a meeting of the Community Reference Group on 14 January 2009 the new Minister for Corrections, Mr Hargreaves, indicated that he was looking into changing the Group. The Coalition’s representative on it wrote to him on 29 January setting out the considerations that the Coalition believes should guide any change. Read the Coalition’s letter here. The Minister replied on 1 April 2009 stating that he had asked his department to review the role and function of the Group“ with a view to delivering a consultative group that looks constructively beyond the parameter of the AMC, therefore more accurately reflecting the concepts of ‘Through Care’.” Read the Minister’s letter here.
The Coalition wrote to the Attorney-General on 12 October 2008 proposing that the Government appoint two more official visitors of whom one should be a woman. The Coalition explained that this was because of the expected number of detainees and the likely reluctance of some to approach an official visitor with a law enforcement background as the person already appointed had. Because of the imminence of the ACT elections, the Coalition wrote in similar terms to the Shadow Minister for Corrections. Read the letters here and here. The Minister for Corrections appointed after the elections, Mr Hargreaves, replied on 5 January 2009. He declined to appoint a further official visitor. The Shadow Minister for Corrections, Mr Hanson, replied on 22 January 2009. He undertook to seek assurances that prisoners would have adequate access to official visitor services.
In the absence of any official reaction from the ACT Government to the recommendations contained in the Coalition’s study, Healthy or harmful? Mental Health and the Operational Regime of the New ACT Prison issued in April 2008, the Coalition wrote to the Chief Minister on 23 December 2008. It sought a response to the study’s seven key recommendations and explained that it was writing to the Chief Minister directly because the matters raised go beyond the portfolio responsibilities of either the Minister responsible for corrections or the Minister responsible for health. Read the letter here. The Coalition wrote directly to the Health and Corrections Ministers explaining what it was seeking. Read these two letters here and here.
On 28 April 2010, the Coalition sent a further letter to the Chief Minister, Attorney-General and Health Minister pointing out that it had not received a reply to the earlier correspondence. A copy of the letter to the Chief Minister is here. The Chief Minister finally replied on behalf of the Government in a letter dated 22 June 2010. A copy of this letter is here.
The Coalition in an email dated 19 January 2009 inquired about policy on the grant of remission for prisoners under part 13.2 of the Crimes (Sentence Administration) Act 2005. A copy of the email is here. The Minister for Corrections replied on 19 February 2009 to the effect that the power is not subject to policies and that its exercise is determined on a case by case basis. A copy of the letter is here.
The Coalition wrote to the
Chief Minister on 6 February 2009 proposing the establishment of “a
cross-agency coordination body whose primary role would be to ensure that
“throughcare” and “aftercare” services are well-planned, effectively and
efficiently delivered, and subject to rigorous performance monitoring”. Read
the letter here. The Coalition also
wrote on the same date to the Ministers responsible for Corrections and Health.
Read the letters here and here.