Prison at hub of in­no­va­tion

Cor­rec­tive ser­vices en­thu­si­as­tic about pro­grams and re­forms

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - By MAL­COLM WEATHERUP

DUR­ING the com­ing year, the Townsville Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre at Stu­art will be at the fore­front of in­no­va­tive Queens­land prison pro­grams and re­forms, ac­cord­ing to the cen­tre’s gen­eral man­ager John Har­ri­son.

The 150-bed, $130 mil­lion women’s prison is now well un­der con­struc­tion.

The earth­works are al­most com­plete, most of the con­crete slab work for the ac­com­mo­da­tion has been laid and block­work is up to the sec­ond level of the first cell block and the first of the res­i­den­tial units.

So far, $16.7m has been spent on the project, which is on sched­ule for com­ple­tion in April, 2008.

The 154-bed fa­cil­ity will re­place the cur­rent 75-bed women’s block now lo­cated within the se­cure perime­ter of the men’s fa­cil­ity.

‘‘The new women’s fa­cil­ity will end the un­sat­is­fac­tory sit­u­a­tion of male and fe­male pris­on­ers be­ing sep­a­rated just by a fence, and the women hav­ing to share some male fa­cil­i­ties,’’ Mr Har­ri­son said.

Also in­cluded in the over­all $230m up­grad­ing an­nounced by Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices Min­is­ter Judy Spence ear­lier this year, the men’s prison will get 200 beds to re­place ex­ist­ing ones dat­ing from the 1960s.

Mr Har­ri­son es­ti­mates the projects un­der way at Stu­art are part of the sin­gle largest cur­rent pub­lic works pro­gram in Queens­land.

‘‘Townsville is pretty well much where it’s hap­pen­ing, and not just in terms of con­struc­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘It will be here that we’ll be tri­alling new meth­ods of de­liv­er­ing the cru­cial pro­grams aimed at cut­ting re-of­fend­ing, such as drug, al­co­hol and sex­ual abuse, along with anger man­age­ment.’’

But the in­no­va­tion Mr Har­ri­son was most en­thu­si­as­tic about was the in­dus­trial train­ing com­plex to be built in the male area of the prison.

He said this fa­cil­ity would make it pos­si­ble to train pris­on­ers in spe­cific job skills, some­times for the first time in their lives.

‘‘But we take it fur­ther than that, be­cause we don’t see ev­ery­one fit­ting into the same mould or just giv­ing them a skill that may not be use­ful to them in the com- mu­ni­ties to which they’re likely to re­turn,’’ Mr Har­ri­son said.

He said when in­mates came from a spe­cific area or com­mu­nity, one to which they were likely to re­turn, cor­rec­tive ser­vices staff li­aised with the com­mu­nity lead­ers to find out what skills were needed in that area.

Then, the ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing was of­fered to the pris­oner.

‘‘In essence, we tai­lor-make jobs to fit the per­son, his spe­cific fu­ture and his lo­ca­tion,’’ Mr Har­ri­son said.

It ap­pears that those trained for specfic skills in prison are ben­e­fit­ting from the gen­eral de­mand for work­ers in the North Queens­land labour force starved of trained man­power.

‘ ‘ F o r w h a t e v e r r e a s o n , earth­mov­ing cour­ses are prov­ing to have a pos­i­tive ef­fect, and the ev­i­dence is that if you give a man a bull­dozer ticket through this scheme, you are vir­tu­ally guar­an­tee­ing him a job on re­lease,’’ Mr Har­ri­son said.

‘‘In fact, it is no longer un­usual to have some of our peo­ple of­fered jobs be­fore they are ac­tu­ally re­leased.’’

The Townsville Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre in 2007 is also look­ing to fur­ther the pro­gram where cor­rec­tive ser­vices of­fi­cers are posted in re­mote com­mu­ni­ties to help man­age con­victed of­fend­ers to serve their time in the com­mu­nity.

The of­fi­cers li­aised closely with com­mu­nity lead­ers on a range of du­ties in a pro­gram Mr Har­ri­son said was prov­ing to keep peo­ple out of jail.

‘‘We’d just as soon keep peo­ple out of jail as make sure we look af­ter them prop­erly when they do en­ter our sys­tem,’’ Mr Har­ri­son said.

Photo:EVANMORGANQCD67251

MAN IN CHARGE . . . Townsville Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre gen­eral man­ager John Har­ri­son

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