The ACT government has agreed to 61 of the 71 recommendations handed down by the independent inspector in his first healthy prisons report released late last year.
However, the inspector, Neil McAllister, noted that "some systemic issues identified in the review will not be easy to resolve" and the inspectorate will keep a watching brief on implementation "to ensure ... objectives are met".
Canberra's maximum security prison has been beset with issues since it opened in 2009, many of which are underpinned by being gradually forced to accept many more inmates than for which it was originally designed.
This issue is hoped to be addressed by a new 80-bed minimum security "reintegration centre" which is currently being designed but is unlikely to be opened for another 18 months. The government set aside $35 million for the facility in the June budget last year.
The inspector's report found that the high detainee numbers and the large number of cohorts that "do not mix" created difficulties across the prison.
These key issues included the high proportion of prisoners detained on remand within the Alexander Maconochie Centre, as well as female prisoners housed within the same complex. Under the prison's original design brief, detainees and sentenced prisoners were to be kept separate.
"Resolving these issues will require work in the broader justice sector as the AMC [prison] cannot control how many detainees enter the centre," Mr McAllister noted in his report.
However, the inspector said the positive response to his contentious report from the ACT government "will lead to significant improvements for detainees and staff at the AMC".
"We have already seen some encouraging progress . . . since the review was tabled in November 2019, such as the notification of updated and revised policies and procedures," Mr McAllister said.
Another key issue was that of more appropriate accommodation for female prisoners, who because of the overcrowding issue are not given proper access to appropriate exercise facilities and formal training programs.
"We acknowledge the work being done with the development of the women offenders framework but will continue to closely monitor the situation for the women detainees to ensure significant improvements are made to their daily life," Mr McAllister said.
The new framework, which will include a review of the induction system for female detainees and better access to the transitional release program, is expected to completed by the end of this year.
Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury is committed to a "long-term plan for female accommodation" to be developed by the middle of this year.