ACT Corrective Services (ACTCS) is part of the ACT Government which has responsibility for offenders within Community Corrections, and detainees within ACT correctional centres. ACTCS seeks to do this in a way that maintains the safety and security of detainees, offenders and the community, while promoting the rehabilitation of detainees. The Policy and Government Unit of the ACTCS works to ensure that policies under the Corrections Management Act 2007 (ACT) are compliant with the overarching legislation and reflect best practice in corrections management as informed by practices in other jurisdictions and community expectations.
In winter 2017, I spent a month as an Aurora intern working with the Policy and Government Unit of ACTCS on a large-scale, long-term policy review of all ACTCS policies under the Corrections Management Act 2007 (ACT) and related legislation. This involved conducting extensive edits on older policies to ensure that they were compliant with a recently implemented new policy format and reflected the values, objectives and obligations of ACTCS. In addition, the process included close reading of legislation, other jurisdictions’ policies and ACTCS specific review recommendations, and discussing difficulties or gaps in current policy with experienced policy officers and Corrections Officers to ensure that written policy was realistic and consistent with the practical considerations of corrections management.
During my time with ACTCS I was lucky enough to be given very interesting and high level work. I got to work on every stage of policy review including drafting the initial new policy based on the older, out-of-date one. This was very rewarding because it meant that none of the work had been done yet I got to decide a bit more about how best to structure the information and what needed to be included. My favourite part of this process was getting to read other jurisdictions’ policies and legislation around the topic of the policy I was working on, and figuring out where there were gaps in what ACTCS was doing, what ACTCS could be doing better, and what ACTCS did that other jurisdictions don’t yet do.
I also got to meet and work with a senior policy officer who also had experience running programs from within the Alexander Maconochie Centre (ACT’s only full-time detention centre), and therefore had a lot of insight to contribute to an Art and Craft Policy I was working on. We even met with someone from ACT Arts to find out what input they had regarding the policy. The Art and Craft Policy and associated programs had a large focus on the rehabilitative value of detainee engagement in art and craft, and I was excited to see how much consideration and consultation went in to writing the policy.
My experience with ACTCS expanded my skill set in that I learnt a lot about the different approaches to writing policies, the various types of documents that can be considered and referred to when writing policy, and how important it is to get as many perspectives as possible on any given policy, as there is always the possibility of unexpected gaps to arise. I now feel confident articulating the role and importance of policy, and feel that I have developed the tools to research and write policy for an organisation in a way that is reflective of its values and obligations.