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A step forward in rehabilitation
March 30, 2009

Officially opened on 11 September, 2008, the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) is the new prison and remand centre at Hume in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It differs to other prisons in Australia because it is the first to be specifically designed, built and operated under human rights legislation, based on the ACT Human Rights Act 2007 and human rights principles.

The AMC is the first prison in the ACT and will include a remand centre to replace the Belconnen Remand Centre and Symonston Temporary Remand Centres.

Up to 300 male and female remand and sentenced prisoners of all security classifications can be housed within the centre.

Fantech’s Major Contracts Co-ordinator Peter Cotterell said a major feature of the prison is that it has been designed to have minimal impact on the environment.

“Rainwater is harvested and stored in a 2.1 million litre below-ground storage area and grey water is recycled to flush toilets and irrigate the grounds. Energy requirements have also been reduced through the installation of solar hot water units and high grade insulation,” Peter said.

The welfare of prisoners and staff has also been a priority in the design. More than 170 Fantech ventilation units and ancillaries have recently been installed at the AMC such as a large number of Smoke Spill Roof Fans including Axial and Heritage Centrifugal Units which help disperse the smoke in the event of a fire.

“It is not the flames of a fire that pose the biggest risk to those trapped, but the smoke,” Peter said. “Inhalation of the fumes associated with burning materials may lead to coughing, vomiting and confusion which all impair a person’s ability to escape a fire. In severe cases the thick smoke and low oxygen levels can even lead to asphyxiation.”

To encourage normalisation and enable prisoners to develop practical living skills, about half the accommodation is in five bedroom self-contained cottages. Low security prisoners leave the cottage for daily activities but return for meals and free time.

The cottages are located around a town square, or central facilities area, which includes a rehabilitation program space, education and health areas, an admission building and visits centre. This open campus design creates open spaces between buildings and groups of buildings.

At the opening of the AMC, Attorney General Simon Corbell said the AMC was an important step towards the rehabilitation of offenders in the justice system. He said the AMC would operate under the ‘healthy prison concept’, which emphasised the importance of providing a safe environment where prisoners were treated with respect and encouraged to improve and be rehabilitated.

These traits honour the memory of Alexander Maconochie whom the prison is named.

Alexander was Commandant of the penal settlement at Norfolk Island from 1840-1844. During that time his System of Moral Reform saw a reduction in cruel punishments, the dignity of convicts respected and
overall conditions improve. He is renowned for his contribution to penal reform, and is known as the ‘Father of Parole’.

At a cost of $131 million, the AMC is a giant leap forward in the way prisons operate and treat those that work and live there.


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