Bennett Brook disability justice centre: two in facility built to house 10

The Bennett Brook disability justice centre is staffed 24 hours a day.
The Bennett Brook disability justice centre is staffed 24 hours a day.

TWO people are living in the Bennett Brook disability justice centre despite the fact that the $8.47 million facility is designed to house up to 10 residents.

The Caversham facility opened in August as an alternative to prison for men and women aged 16 and over with intellectual and cognitive disabilities charged with, but not convicted of, an offence.

A Disability Services Commission spokeswoman said the two residents moved in on August 20. The Lord Street centre is staffed 24 hours a day.

“The actual number of staff on site at any one time varies depending on a range of factors, including the number of residents within the centre and the activities being undertaken by residents,” she said.

“To ensure the ongoing safety and security of residents and the community, three staff are required as a minimum at all times.”

In relation to community concerns around safety, the spokeswoman said there had not been any incidents that could potentially affectct public safety and centre security.

The spokeswoman was unable to discuss the two residents’ situations specifically but said each resident had an individualised development plan that considered their specific needs in working towards successfully reintegrating into their respective communities.

“A range of programs and services are available and these include assisting residents with developing life skills and positive behaviours, recreational programs, and individual counselling,” she said.

“These are considered and delivered in line with an individual’s specific needs related to their disability.”

The spokeswoman said Bennett Brook was a significant step forward in the treatment of people with disability in the justice system deemed unfit to stand trial.

“Previously, people were issued with custody orders with no defined end date and were placed in a prison system that did not have the expertise to manage their complex needs and unique requirements,” she said.

“This meant they could spend far longer in prison than if they had pleaded guilty. The centre provides an appropriate and supportive option for people in this situation who have been assessed as suitable to live in a community setting.”