WRAP - No prison in Westbury

Archer's adoption of 19th century prison model is toxic, says Barns

By Sharon Webb
Meander Valley Gazette
3 September 2020

A new prison in the Meander Valley will be built on the cheap by the Tasmanian Government when it has the opportunity to create a prison that could make a real difference in the State.

The chair of the Prisoners Legal Service Greg Barns said there was an opportunity to do something really different in the north rather than adopt 19th century infrastructure.

'My organisation would welcome the opportunity to work with any group in the Tasmanian community to convince the government to change direction on the type of prison to be built,' the outspoken barrister said.

In contrast to Corrections Minister Elise Archer's 2019 vision of a state-of-the-art prison, Mr Barns said the prison planned for Birralee Road would be 'grey brick, lowslung and built on the cheap'.

'Don't think it will be aesthetic and architecturally pleasing,' he said, as information emerged that the building will be close to Birralee Road.

'It will be a toxic make-work scheme that the Meander Valley will never be able to get rid of.

'It's sickening that the government sells a prison on the basis of jobs for the Meander Valley, as if the deprivation of people's liberty is something to celebrate.

'The failure of Ashley Detention Centre is because it's a make-work scheme for people in Deloraine.

'Once prisons are built they make work, the workers' relatives get jobs there. The local economy becomes dependent on those jobs and there's corruption involved.'

Mr Barns said he had no idea why Ms Archer was fixated on building a prison in the Meander Valley but another prison like Risdon would be a drain on the economy.

'It's simple economics. If you want to reduce offending, have a secure environment that rehabilitates prisoners to return to the community and not reoffend

'It needs to be a therapeutic prison where health and education are the focus.

'Currently there is high recidivism in Tasmania because of the poor conditions in prison and the lack of rehabilitation. We've been saying this for a long time.

'A northern prison needs to be completely different from the one in the south. This is a real opportunity for northern Tasmania.

'It makes sense to have a facility in the north but I have no confidence that the government will do it. Why? Because there's no votes in prisons.

'We will support it if it's essentially a place for prisoners' mental and educational rehabilitation, but that's diametrically opposed to the model the government is proposing.'

Mr Barns said his type of prison was commonplace in Europe and Scandinavia

'The cost to the community is so much less. Why would you adopt a 19th century piece of infrastructure? That's a dumb idea.

'European prisons are innovative designs that draw people like teachers and doctors to live in those communities because they work in those prisons.

'The irony is that most prisons built in rural locations in mainland Australia are low security, designed to transition people back into the community. Putting a maximum security prison in a country area like the Meander Valley is really odd.'


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