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Condemned jail 'fit for purpose': NT govt

AAP logoAAP 24/11/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Australia's largest jail has been slammed for structural, operational and security failures, but Northern Territory Corrections Minister Natasha Fyles defends it as a "functional facility."

Darwin's new $1.8 billion prison was condemned for creating "demeaning and humiliating" conditions for inmates, in a leaked report obtained by Sky News.

A Safer Northern Territory Through Correctional Interventions report identified an inadequate sewerage system in the 1000-bed facility where at one point inmates were limited to three toilet flushes a day.

Also known as the Hamburger report, it revealed the poorly designed jail forces women to stay inside the high-security men's compound at the Darwin Correctional Precinct.

The jail, which opened two years ago, is also overcrowded, reaching a total of 141 women in May for a space with a capacity of 76.

This means female detainees are denied the same rehabilitative, training and medical services afforded to men.

Ms Fyles rejected the findings that Australia's newest prison is not fit for purpose, but recognised that work and education programs aren't provided for about half of the inmates.

"It is workable infrastructure, but it is what takes place within those walls," she said on Thursday.

"The government is already making changes to the day-to-day activities that take place."

She said claims about toilet and shower rationing referred to a two-week period of heavy rain and flooding and has since been resolved.

The NT female prisoner population has risen dramatically since 2008 and the government will explore other ways to accommodate them such as work camps, Ms Fyles says.

She also said a "one-off incident" where a dodgy security screening system forced a female visitor to remove her bra before entering the jail had been dealt with.

"That was not acceptable," Ms Fyles said.

The scathing report makes 172 recommendations and calls for a complete overhaul to address a "devastating" crisis unfolding for indigenous Australians, who make up 85 per cent of the prison population.

When questioned why the prison environment doesn't cater to the cultural needs of Aboriginal inmates, Ms Fyles said the government would look at introducing regional work camps to support low-risk indigenous inmates closer to home.

"It's a sad indictment on the Northern Territory that we have to make sure our correctional facility is culturally appropriate, with such a high rate of indigenous incarceration," she said.

The report was commissioned by the former Country Liberals government, but the then chief minister Adam Giles refused to release it ahead of the August election that crushed his party.

The new Labor government released the executive summary of the report in October, but is yet to publicise it in full over "security issues."

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