The controversial mandatory alcohol rehabilitation program in the Northern Territory will be housed in the low security wing of Darwin’s Berrimah prison.
The Alcohol Rehabilitation Minister, Robyn Lambley and Correctional Services Minister, John Elferink recently announced that the Darwin Alcohol Treatment Service which has suffered some security issues recently with patients escaping, will be moved from the medi-hotel on the grounds of the Royal Darwin Hospital to the Berrimah prison. The move will happen as soon as the new Darwin Correctional Precinct’s construction is completed in the middle of next year.
The following excerpt from a post on www.abc.net.au explains:
Mrs Lambley said the jail accommodation, currently used to detain low-security offenders, will provide patients undergoing compulsory treatment with a safe, secure and modern facility.
“The new accommodation will ensure that people who are receiving treatment will get the help they need … to turn their lives around,” she said.
Three weeks ago, Mrs Lambley talked to ABC radio’s Julia Christensen about the need for greater security at the medi-hotel where problem drunks are now being housed.
One man had escaped from the facility three times.
Mrs Lambley was asked if the erection of electric fences at the medi-hotel was being considered.
“I think that’s a ridiculous proposal, Julia,” she replied.
“We are not setting up a prison for these people.
Of course, we are looking into making it more secure but we are not going to turn it into a prison.”
According to Mrs Lambley the new location is ideal because it has a large piece of land and at the moment holds 32 prisoners which means that it can fit 100 beds which is the number of patients to be housed in the centre. It also has great visibility, so there is improved safety and security.
Not everyone approves of the 90 day mandatory alcohol rehab program and have condemned holding people against their will without being convicted of a criminal offence but being treated similar to a prisoner. However Lambley has defended the program and said that positive results are already being seen in the state.
The post goes on to explain:
“Since 1 July, 216 people have been taken into protective custody for the second time, 85 are now on their third strike, and, of these, 36 have been referred for assessment and treatment,” she said.
“To qualify for Alcohol Mandatory Treatment a person must be taken into protective custody three times in two months.”
Mr Elferink said low-security prisoners will be among the first to be transferred from Berrimah jail to the new Darwin Correctional Precinct, making the current low-security accommodation available.
Mr Elferink went on to explain that a “custodial approach” was necessary to tackle problem drinkers however the reality is that in order to do this a certain level of security is necessary to prevent “destructive behaviour”. He explained that the approach is similar to that which we have been employing for mental health patients for years so security will be of an appropriate level not a prison.