Women Offenders Framework, vaccinations signs of progress at AMC

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) today welcomed the launch of the Women Offenders Framework and the announcement that female detainees will move back to their purpose-built accommodation at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).

Dr Emma Campbell, ACTCOSS CEO said: “ACTCOSS and its members have been calling for reforms to improve outcomes for women engaged with the justice system, including equitable treatment for women detainees in the AMC. We welcome the announcement of a framework focused on improving the health, human rights and rehabilitation outcomes for female detainees at the AMC.

“For nearly four years, female detainees have been housed in a high security wing in the heart of the AMC, lacking privacy and appropriate separation from male detainees. ACTCOSS has continually advocated for the return of female detainees to their purpose-built accommodation and are relieved that this process is finally underway.

“Most women in detention have experienced significant trauma and disadvantage. As acknowledged in the framework, achieving positive outcomes for women engaged with the justice system requires trauma-informed responses.

“Policy documents are one thing; concrete outcomes are another. The AMC and the ACT Government must remain accountable to the community for the implementation of the new framework.

“This means appropriate and adequately funded services for women to divert them from the justice system as well as for women in the AMC and on release. Supports such as housing, mental health, financial counselling, disability, employment and alcohol and drug treatment services must be properly resourced and readily accessible.

“Additionally, there are key areas left unaddressed by the framework, such as the inclusion of women detainees in transitional release programs, and the progression of recommendations to allow very young children to stay with their mothers. ACTCOSS will continue to advocate for these and other issues raised in the Healthy Prison Review,” Dr Campbell said.

COVID-19 vaccinations for detainees at the Alexander Maconochie Centre began on 31 May, and while exact numbers are not available, ACTCOSS understands that the majority of detainees have received their first dose.

“The AMC is a confined environment with a high risk of transmission, and many detainees experience chronic health conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant restrictions to visitation access and the impact on both detainees and their families has been immense.

“We acknowledge the work of AMC staff and health services including Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service in the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine at the AMC. We hope it will lead to increased visitation access for detainees, including the ability to hug their children and family members,” Dr Campbell concluded.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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