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Far less violence at Macquarie Prison where serious offenders enjoy more freedom

A new experimental prison in New South Wales, with full security guards working 15 hours a day and no solitary confinement, has a record low rate of assaults on staff and other inmates.

At the Macquarie Correctional Center in Wellington, central-western New South Wales, inmates convicted of murder, rape and terrorism sleep in dormitory-style “pods,” attend art classes, design and I get paid to weld.

The prison is on its fifth anniversary and NSW Department of Corrections data shows that the ‘experiment’ appears to be working.

John*, not his real name, has been incarcerated for over 20 years on murder charges, most of them in high-security regular prisons, where prisoners are held in concrete cells with little freedom.

After being transferred to Macquarie, John holds art classes twice a week for fellow inmates, spends hours in the art studio, and creates works for the prison chapel and exhibitions.

Macquarie prisoners do not have cells. They sleep in pods and interact freely with other inmates.(ABC News: Isobel Roe)

“In an old-style prison, or the most heavily guarded facility, you start the day by dressing for war,” John said.

“Here I am completely relaxed.

“The level of freedom and confidence given to us here will lead to better results upon release. That’s the hope.”

The 400 all-male Macquarie inmates have staffed the prison’s cafes and commercial kitchens, worked in computer-aided design (CAD) labs, and learned to use welders and 3D printers in the engineering department.

macquarie engineering
Inmates work 15 hours a day, including paid work in engineering workshops.(ABC News: Isobel Roe)

The prison has a content studio called “MAC TV” where inmates shoot and edit promotional videos for internal use.

Inmates can also take college courses online, and at least one inmate is now pursuing a Ph.D.

At night, instead of being confined to cells, inmates sleep in dormitories with screens that allow them to monitor rehabilitation programs and court dates.

Macquarie Cafe
An inmate-run café where inmates prepare breakfast for staff and visitors.(ABC News: Isobel Roe)

Data from the New South Wales Department of Corrections show that after five years of operation, Macquarie Prison’s inmate misconduct rate was half that of other high security prisons in the state, and staff assault rates were lower than those of comparable prisons. One eighth.

Inmates at Macquarie enjoy a level of freedom not found in other high-security prisons, but Warden Brad Peebles says that comes with great expectations.

“We expect them to work 15 hours a day,” Mr. Peebles said.

“Everyone works half a day and then either programs or teaches the other half.

“It’s a very safe prison for both the inmates and the staff. It’s also very safe so the inmates can focus on the program and all that we offer, rather than living in fear.” “

Brad Peebles
Macquarie Prison Warden Brad Peebles says some inmates “shine” when given the right opportunity.(ABC News: Isobel Roe)

The prison was the first of two NSW Government ‘rapid construction’ prisons designed to be built in 12 months to remedy a shortage of prison beds.

Macquarie and the Hunter Correctional Center, which opened in 2018, were designed with dormitory-style living instead of cells to speed up the construction process.

Peebles knows that high-activity prison programs are designed to keep inmates out of trouble, and offenders can be sent back to harsher facilities if they misbehave. said.

“At the end of the day, behavior really depends on the context.

“And here we provide the context that brings out the best in people.

“There are a lot of people who make stupid mistakes and keep making those mistakes, and when given a chance, they shine,” he said.

A university study is underway to track recidivism rates among Macquarie inmates.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-12-07/macquarie-prison-sees-benefits-of-giving-inmates-more-freedom/101719204 Far less violence at Macquarie Prison where serious offenders enjoy more freedom

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