COVID lockdown of inmates at Alexander Maconochie Center prison continues | The Canberra Times

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The ACT government’s management of the Canberra prison was condemned on two fronts on Wednesday, with a vote of no confidence against the Minister for Corrections in the ACT meeting and relatives of detainees concerned about the suspension of contact with detainees. The vote of no confidence follows a scathing report by the ACT Inspector of Correctional Services that found the human rights of an indigenous woman had been violated during a search of the Alexander Maconochie Center. Standing orders were suspended in the Assembly on Wednesday after Liberals spokeswoman Elizabeth Kikkert provided details of what she described as repeated violations of human rights and norms in prison. “Prison is a bubble in its own right where rules are applied differently,” Ms Kikkert told the Assembly. “Unfortunately, we have some areas where we, as Canberrans, are not performing well, and one of them is prison.” Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman described the motion as a “stunt”. ACT Corrections confirmed that the lockdown was underway at the prison in response to an employee who contracted COVID-19 last week and had been active in prison for two days. The lockdown went into effect six days ago. After the initial confirmation last week, no further information has been provided as to whether prison staff or inmates are infected. The staff member – described as “fairly senior” in rank and not a corrections officer – is believed to have been infected in the community and unknowingly taken to prison last week despite being vaccinated against COVID-19. “All non-essential movements of both staff and detainees at the AMC, including to Zoom meeting facilities, have been temporarily suspended,” the Justice and Community Security Directorate said in a statement. “These measures have been taken based on health advice.” READ MORE: No details could be given on when virtual contact between detainees and family members would resume. Meanwhile, a family member who contacted The Canberra Times on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of her partner in prison described how “the mental health of those in prison is not being addressed, with even the Zoom visits being canceled and the only explanation is due to operational procedures”. “The prison management does not like the terms being discussed, my partner is afraid of harsh treatment if complaints are made to the” [facility’s] official visitor,” she said. “I am concerned that the prison is stating that they have policies and procedures in place to deal with COVID when they simply don’t. They just turn off the computers and don’t call family, so the inmates don’t have any contact with family at all. “The situation there will escalate and unfortunately the detainees, family and the general public will not be informed of the situation as usual.” Official prison visits have been suspended for weeks, causing inmates to lose all independent and unsupervised contact with individuals outside the prison’s ACT system. Complaints can still be submitted by email, but they can be intercepted and read by prison authorities. The motion of no confidence against the minister was rejected on party lines.


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