Meander Valley Gazette

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Ashley site for new prison?

NewsJoanne Eisemann

Feburary 2019 | Sharon Webb

THE TASMANIAN Government has confirmed it is still examining location options for a new northern prison. A government spokesperson said locations are currently being assessed and the government would have “more to say on this in due course”.

It is believed the list includes the Ashley Youth Detention Centre site just outside Deloraine. Expressions of interest opened in September for potential sites for a northern prison, with Meander Valley Council supporting use of the Ashley site. A recent spat between the State’s major parties saw the Liberals accusing Labor of planning to close Ashley.

But the Shadow Minister for Corrections Josh Willie MLC said Labor would not close Ashley. “While the data continues to show young people are assaulting staff and causing self harm at Ashley, all Roger Jaensch can do is attack Labor,” he said. “It is time for Tasmania to have a conversation about its approach to youth detention. It takes a huge proportion of the youth justice budget and there needs to be more of a focus on therapeutic and restorative justice.”

The government responded saying significant work has already been achieved via the Ashley Youth Detention Change Management Program move to a more therapeutic model of care. Mr Willie quoted this week’s Productivity Commission report on government services recording 19 assaults and five self-harm or suicide attempts at Ashley in 2017-2018, little improvement on 16 and nine respectively in 2016-2017.

The report also reveals a cost of more than $3,000 a day for each person kept in youth detention in Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government allocated $7.2m in its 2018 budget to refurbish the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, saying the decision will protect 60 jobs in the Deloraine area. But those job numbers look to decrease because the detention of young Tasmanians is decreasing dramatically.

According to the government’s Custodial Youth Justice Options Paper by Noetic Solutions Pty Ltd, between 2008-2009 and 2014- 2015 the total number of youth offenders in Tasmania declined by 47 per cent. While Ashley currently has a 51 bed capacity, in the 2018 June quarter, 13 young Tasmanians were in detention per night according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures. Noetic predicts that by 2020 only six young people will be in detention.