26 September 2023

Jail riot review finds unreadiness guilty

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The Office of the ACT Inspector of Correctional Services has found that a riot at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) in November last year was not reasonably foreseeable by ACT Corrective Services.

ACT Inspector of Correctional Services, Neil McAllister said the critical incident review, Riot and serious fires at the Alexander Maconochie Centre on 10 November 2020, found that while corrections staff responded well, more work was needed to ensure they could effectively perform their roles.

“What seems to have started as a passive protest of detainees refusing to lock into their cells overnight got out of hand when a few detainees started lighting fires and damaging furniture and fittings in the Accommodation Unit – North,” Mr McAllister said.

“This was a very serious incident that lasted about nine hours and the fact that it was resolved without injuries to staff or detainees is a testament to the professional response of Corrections Officers and ACT Fire and Rescue firefighters in very difficult and hazardous circumstances,” he said.

Mr McAllister said the Review found issues with the training of staff to deal with serious incidents, including a riot.

“While AMC staff did a great job on the night, many were unprepared for dealing with the situation,” he said.

“Had it not been for the leadership of a few experienced senior Corrections Officers in the frontline, things could have turned out very badly for both staff and detainees.”

Mr McAllister acknowledged the prompt and professional support provided to ACT Corrective Services by ACT Policing and the ACT Ambulance Service, both of which deployed significant resources to assist in the management of the incident.

The Review made 14 recommendations, including updating policies and procedures for major critical incidents; increasing staff training and scenario exercises; and conducting a full audit of the Tactical Personal Protective Equipment at the AMC.

The ACT Inspector of Correctional Services’ 41-page report of the Review can be accessed at this PS News link.

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