The following letter, written by Bill Bush, FFDLR President was published in the Canberra Times on Saturday 3 May 2021
When in 1999 John Hargreaves served on the seminal Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety that recommended that the ACT government establish its own prison, the government’s discussion paper reported that the ACT incarceration rate of ACT sentenced people serving time in New South Wales was 49 per 100,000.
It is now 147 per 100,000 and the rate of incarceration of indigenous people here rivals Western Australia as the worst in the nation.
If Hargreaves, who was the deputy chair, is proud of the prison (Letters, Tuesday 27) he recommended I shudder to think what he would consider a disaster.
Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform argued before that committee that building it would be “inherently misguided, inhumane and counter productive” and that far better outcomes with enhanced public safety would be achieved far more cheaply by changing our drug policy just as Switzerland had by then done with spectacular reductions in offending by people engaged in treatment.
The committee gave us the flick: “The committee acknowledges that in an ideal society we would not need to have a prison but since that is not the case, the most appropriate option for ACT prisoners is for them to be housed locally”.
It is cold comfort that the wildly impractical dream that the ACT could establish a human rights compliant, rehabilitative prison unlike any in Australia has shown itself to be the pipe dream that it always was.