Prison at hub of innovation
Corrective services enthusiastic about programs and reforms
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.
MAN IN CHARGE . . . Townsville Correctional Centre general manager John Harrison