ACT News

What's it like inside the Alexander Maconochie Centre's new prison unit?

The Alexander Maconochie Centre is a sprawling complex, a fenced city surrounded by the Monaro Highway and empty paddocks.

It takes 10 minutes to walk from the gatehouse, past head-high blossoming, aromatic flowers, through fenced-in walkways and multiple security gates, past a kitchen and laundry to the newest inmate accommodation unit.

Cells at the new accommodation unit.
Cells at the new accommodation unit. Photo: Jay Cronan

The unit is made up of four segregated wings shaped in an "x". Where the lines of the letter intersect is a polygonal guard room, glass on all sides.

Corrections officers say that with four wings, they can separate prisoners who pose a danger to each other, without resorting to isolation cells.

Phones on a blue feature wall.
Phones on a blue feature wall. Photo: Jay Cronan

It's this design in part that it's hoped will boost AMC's claim to the title of Australia's first human rights-compliant prison.

The wings are named for the direction they point. On Wednesday, media toured the north wing, a two-story, open-plan space filled with sunlight.

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Bright green doors line white walls on two levels; pale wood, floating stairs lead to a metal platform and access to the second-story cells.

With inmates yet to move in, the new wing both feels and smells like a freshly painted, empty cupboard.

The cells are all similar. In one, on the left as you enter is a stainless steel toilet - no lifting seat - and a curtain - one of few moving parts - that can be hooked at chest height to separate bathroom from bedroom. Another curtain shields a shower recess.

Plastic mattresses and pillows line laminate bunks, plastic chairs are pulled up to a laminate desk, on which sits a plastic, see-through kettle.

Thick glass windows - no bars - look out above high fences and long, downward pointing spikes to the paddocks beyond.

High fences with aggressive downward pointing spikes.

High fences with downward pointing spikes. Photo: Jay Cronan

There's a television high on the wall, locked in metal.

Back downstairs, a stainless steel kitchen has a fridge, toaster and microwave, the metal glaring against a two-story aqua blue feature wall.

Everything is stainless steel in the kitchen.

Everything is stainless steel in the kitchen. Photo: Jay Cronan

The summer menu on a notice board says its either ham salad or roast beef for lunch on Thursday and chicken risotto or chicken caesar salad for dinner. Vegetarian options are either mushroom risotto or balsamic mushroom with cos, fetta and egg.

From the kitchen, and through a wall of windows, inmates can see the gym equipment that sits in the middle of a concrete courtyard.

Gym equipment sits in the middle of a concrete courtyard.

Gym equipment sits in the middle of a concrete courtyard. Photo: Jay Cronan

Two of these four new wings are full, after inmates housed temporarily at a renovated Symonston facility were brought back into AMC.

This week, there were 420 prisoners held at the centre, its capacity is 539.