New oversight agency focused on improving care, safety and health of detainees

Released 16/02/2017

The ACT Government commits to transformational change to improve the treatment and care of detainees in response to the Independent Inquiry into the Treatment in Custody of Detainee Steven Freeman.

Minister for Corrections Shane Rattenbury today released the Government Response that sets out a program of continuing reform at the Alexander Maconachie Centre (AMC) and a commitment to establish an Inspectorate of Custodial Services to oversee the ACT corrections system.

“The Government recognises it can and must do more to ensure people in custody are safe and receive appropriate care. The response to the Moss Review begins a new chapter for the Alexander Maconochie Centre and Justice Heath Services,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“In light of the tragedy of Steven Freeman’s death, and the challenges associated with a growing detainee population in the ACT, I believe a new model of oversight for the corrections system is needed. While the Moss Review recommended that the ACT Ombudsman be charged with this oversight, we are going a step further by establishing a dedicated Inspectorate of Custodial Services with extensive and substantive powers. This Inspectorate will better provide the scrutiny and support the corrections system needs, while working closely with existing oversight and complaints agencies, such as the Ombudsman.

“I have directed the Justice and Community Safety Directorate to begin work preparing possible models for an Inspectorate of Custodial Services to ensure our custodial facilities operate in line with best practice and community expectations.

“Our work will be further strengthened when the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is ratified by the end of the year as announced by the Federal Government last week.

“I, and the ACT Government, acknowledge the distress and anguish that the loss of Steven Freeman has caused, and the impact it has had on his family and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my deepest condolences to them.

“Today’s response reflects our commitment to implementing transformational change and sharing with the community what we will do differently to improve the care, safety and health of detainees.”

Eight of the nine recommendations made by Mr Moss AM as part of the Moss Review have been agreed to wholly, or in principle, by the Government. As a number of recommendations span several directorates and statutory office holders, they will require long-term planning and coordination.

“A working group with representatives from Government and the broader community with relevant experience in justice and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services will be established to drive implementation and provide progress updates when key milestones are met. A separate health-focused group will develop a new integrated model of health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the justice system,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“I will also provide a Ministerial Statement to the ACT Legislative Assembly to keep the community informed of our progress, with the first statement scheduled in February next year.”

The remaining recommendation is that the Health Services Commissioner investigates the prescription of methadone at the AMC. The Government is not responsible for directing the Commissioner’s self-initiated activities as they are an independent statutory office.

“I understand the Commissioner has begun an investigation into a number of issues relating to the delivery of health services at the AMC, which is expected to be completed by the end of June.”

A range of actions have already been undertaken by the Government to support and improve justice and health outcomes for detainees, including:

  • establishment of a designated unit for new arrivals in the AMC, allowing for thorough assessments over a period of up to five days to inform a detainee’s placement;
  • upgrades to security at the AMC, including the installation of additional cameras, a review of operational security, and the appointment of a security specialist to ensure all procedures and protocols are effective;
  • initiation of an internal review of ACT Health’s procedures for prescribing and monitoring methadone use at the AMC;
  • development of a more robust follow-up system for people discharged from The Canberra Hospital to the AMC, and access to a mental health electronic clinical record system for all Justice Health staff at the AMC, to improve information sharing and continuity of care.

In this response, the Government commits to implementing key recommendations by developing a memorandum of understanding or contract between Justice Health Services and Corrective Services by June this year. Implementation of further recommendations and conclusions will be worked through with a clear identified timeline by the high level working group, once established.

The Government’s response is available at

- Statement ends -

Section: Shane Rattenbury, MLA | Media Releases

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