The ACT Corrective Services issued a public apology on Tuesday following a racist image drawn by prison officers which left one inmate “seriously impacted”.
Commissioner Jon Peach said the corrective services are currently undergoing “significant reform” following an alleged racist image drawn in 2018 at the Alexander Maconochie detention centre.
“This type of behaviour is abhorrent and reflects badly on all those staff that do the right thing every day. There is no place for it within ACTCS and it will not be tolerated," he said.
“Any staff member who cannot meet these basic expectations should rethink their career with ACTCS.
“As a society it is our duty to call out this behaviour when it happens and to convey our apology to those who are directly affected by the reckless actions of others."
The image was drawn on a whiteboard by staff inside a room only accessible by approximately 200 custodial and non-custodial staff.
The image is of a man hanging in what appears to be a game of “hangman” while a boat with stick figures of people sails past. The name below the hanging man is of an Aboriginal inmate at the centre who has a mental disability.
One person drawn in the boat is seen saying “yay” with its head tilted up, looking at the hanged man.
Another Aboriginal inmate, who goes by the name, Detainee A, raised the issue with Dhurrawang Aboriginal Human Rights Program through the Canberra Community Law centre, who then lodged a complaint to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
Detainee A said he found out about the image after hearing custodial officers laughing about the drawing.
Inmate remains concerned
In a statement released by lawyers of Detainee A on Thursday, the Dhurrawang Aboriginal Human Rights Program said their main concern in regards to the incident was the “initial response from ACT Corrective Services because it did not acknowledge the racist nature of the image”.
“We are also concerned the ACT Corrective Services have failed to produce any evidence of their attempts to investigate this incident or to identify the individuals responsible for the image,” the statement read.
The statement also said the man depicted in the drawing remains unaware of the incident, but it has left Detainee A distressed as he feels “highly protective of him".
“My mental health was seriously impacted by the incident at the AMC where I overheard the guards laughing and joking about the disgusting image that was drawn on a whiteboard in the armory,” Detainee A said in a statement released by his lawyers.
“The reference to the boat cuts deeply given the history of this country and what has happened to our people since colonisation.
“The realisation that the people entrusted with our care think and behave in this way is frightening.”
Lawyers representing Detainee A said he was pleased to have received an apology from the commissioner through the litigation process, but is upset that the ACT Corrective Services seemed to have played down the serious nature of the incident.