A “concerning” disturbance at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) last night saw 27 protesting detainees light four fires after refusing to lock into their cells.
The incident began around 6.50pm last night, Tuesday 10 November, when a group of AMC detainees on the accommodation unit North refused to lock into their cells as per standard protocol and proceeded to start a fire in the external yard of the unit.
As standard protocol, staff withdrew from the area, secured the entire prison, and accounted for all detainees and staff.
Over the course of the evening, four fires were lit by the detainees, two in external yards and two cell fires within the accommodation unit.
“The rest of the infrastructure, other than the two cells that were damaged, seems to be intact at this point in time,” ACT Corrective Services Commissioner Jon Peach said today.
Fires were extinguished by ACT Fire & Rescue with the support of ACT Corrective Service (ACTCS).
During the incident, detainees were armed with weapons from inside the unit, such as broom handles and other everyday instruments, however, no injuries to either ACTCS staff or other detainees were reported nor were any violent tendencies shown.
At approximately 10.30pm, detainees stated they wished to surrender, and the situation was then resolved calmly.
By 3am, order had been restored to the centre, while this morning the entire AMC has been in lockdown.
The matter has been referred to ACT Policing for investigation.
Commissioner Peach said there was no indication that last night’s AMC fire incident was premeditated or planned.
“These things can spark in jails very, very quickly, I think it is fair to say that we have seen an escalation in tension within the jail over the COVID-19 period as we have seen in the community,” he said.
“We haven’t seen the same levels of aggression or anxiety in the detainees that we’ve seen in other jurisdictions until this day.
“There’s a number of different issues they raised overnight … this is essentially 27 detainees who were not happy with different elements of their incarceration.”
Inmates ‘bored out of their brains’: Jones
Shadow Minister for Corrections Giulia Jones said a lack of activity in the AMC has led to inmates being bored.
“Prisoners spend a huge amount of time in their cells, this is a matter of staffing and this is a matter of activity in the prison,” she said.
“There is not enough activity in the prison, people are bored out of their brains. Inmates are bored to the extent that it drives them mad.”
Commissioner Peach said that while COVID-19 had restricted their “regime”, activities are available “for people that want to take part in it”.
“We’ve actually increased our program delivery throughout COVID-19; what we have seen for obvious reasons is that service providers don’t want to come into the jail,” he said.
“There are a number of factors that lead to an issue like this, I think you need to look at the mix of detainees that were in there, this involved 27 detainees out of a population of approximately 430 so it certainly isn’t a jail-wide problem.”
Minster for Corrections Mick Gentleman said he found the incident “concerning”.
“I have met with the Inspector of Correctional Services and have asked him to review the incident and provide me advice to better understand what happened,” he said.
“I will also be looking carefully at previous reports and data to determine how the Government can ensure that the AMC is an effective prison.”