Facility's focus is rehabilitation

By ANDY PARKS

THE first stage of a $20 million 'low risk' correction facility for Aboriginal offenders near Tabulam, west of Casino, has been completed.

According to Simon Crittle, a spokesperson for NSW Justice Minister John Hatzistergos, the first stage included a 50-bed male accommodation centre and administration buildings.

"Work is about to commence on the women's section, which will include 10 beds, and subject to funding another 10 beds will be built, making a total of 70," he said.

No date has been set for the arrival of the first inmates, but Mr Crittle described it as 'imminent'.

The facility will be used to accommodate first-time Aboriginal offenders serving community-based sentences. Inmates will be referred to as 'trainees' and will have the opportunity to participate in training programs in areas such as anger management, numeracy, literacy and life skills.

"The whole point of the facility is to intervene in the lives of people before they become hardened criminals," Mr Crittle said. "People who are being sentenced for the first time are at risk of becoming criminals, and this is an opportunity to change their behaviour in areas such as drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence a whole range of things."

The centre is currently training staff, which will include Aboriginal elders.

"It's been modelled on a facility at Brewarrina, in western NSW. It's slightly different in that their programs are run by prison guards, but it is the same concept and it has been quite successful."

Department of Justice figures show Aboriginal people are significantly over represented in the NSW prison system. Aboriginal people make up two per cent of the population, yet make up 20 per cent of the male prison population and 30 per cent of the female prison population.



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