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Monday, December 4, 2023

Behind Bars: Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, formerly the Deer Park Metropolitan Women’s Correctional Centre (MWCC), stands tall and proud for women as a symbol of strength, a beacon of hope, and helping needy women.

The centre has been publicly owned since the year 2000. However, the centre was once private. The centre is located at Deer Park in Victoria, Australia, and is presently a prison operated by Corrections Victoria.

Become a prison officer at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre has proved vital in helping women start over or reclaim their lives and pursue a brighter, positive future. The work of this centre and its story, right from its origin to its functioning, is exciting and, least to say, inspiring.

In this article, we delve into the history and work of Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and share everything you need to know about it—travelling back to the centre’s origin, the work it achieved, and the impressive impact it has had on women’s lives.

1. What is the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre?

Dame Phyllis Frost Centre is a correctional facility/ maximum security prison for women in Victoria, Australia, managed by the Department of Justice and Community Safety In Victoria’s division—Corrections Victoria.

This is a security prison that houses up to 538 prisoners. These female prisoners must cook food for their meals and complete their housework independently.

Dame Phyllis Frost Centre
By csba.vic.gov.au

This centre is mainly represented as a maximum-security facility for female offenders sentenced to penal servitude for serious or first-offence crimes.

Additionally, it also houses women who are awaiting trial or those who return to custody with a pending problem or for further detention. This centre hopes to provide recovery and provide help to such women.

2. Origin of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre was created on 15th August 1996 and has served decades in providing recovery and support. The institution’s vision was to provide all-inclusive care and hope to women facing hardship. This centre became a pillar of strength and a sign of hope for the community.

There are several opportunities provided to the women housing in this facility, ranging from basic training and mental health support to even drug and alcohol recovery. You can read this article to get a detailed idea about the activities and work at this centre.

2.1. Early Beginnings of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

The credit for the name of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre goes back to a social worker named Phyllis Frost, who died in 2004. She was a philanthropist and a social worker who is also the origin of the centre’s name. She recognized the importance and the urgency with which recovery was needed in the community and was determined to make a difference.

The vision behind creating this centre was to provide support, guidance, and help to women facing many problems like addiction, mental health challenges, and homelessness.

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre’s vision was similar to her values of passion and compassion and dedication. The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre has started on a journey to change countless lives for profit.

By https://csba.vic.gov.au

2.1.1 Origin

The Correction Corporation of Australia (CCA) has spent $100 to construct this facility over the site where the former Deer Park Hospital once was. The CCA owned this facility for over 25 years under a private contract.

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre was problematic in general. The critics held the argument that it was located in a remote place and, therefore, not suitable for women prisoners. The critics also had that the facility was too expensive. However, it was continuously defended by the CCA. They countered that the facility was built to provide a safe as well as human environment for women prisoners.

In 2000, the centre was renamed Dame Phyllis Frost Centre and was taken over. The Victorian Government took control of DPFC, and this privately owned facility became public. Nevertheless, it remained problematic and in discussion. It was found that the centre was overcrowded, and the prisoners were not provided quality meals, health, and medical care.

On the other hand, the facility was praised for providing programs and services that will help the prisoners join the social community and recover.

Today, the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre remains one of Victoria, Australia’s only two women’s prisons.

2.2  Phyllis Frost — A Legacy to Behold

Phyllis Frost was born in 1917 and fostered a sense of justice and the welfare of others since young adulthood. She focused on working and contributing to many charitable organizations, especially those that worked towards women’s advancement.

Her charitable work was later recognized, too. She was honoured and given the ‘Dame Commander of the Order Of The British Empire (DBE) in 1997.

In 2000, the government recognised all her work and charitable work. They were particularly impressed by her work towards advancing and properly treating female workers. They renamed the Deer Park Metropolitan Women’s Correctional Centre the ‘Dame Phyllis Frost Centre’.

2.3 Why is Dame Phyllis Frost Centre notable?

Phyllis Frost was well-known for her unpopular causes, particularly her work towards creating a better physical and mental environment for female prisoners.

This centre is Victoria, Australia’s largest holding prison for females.

Screenshot 17
By csba.vic.gov.au

2.4 Prisoners That are Notable at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

Some of the notable prisoners at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre are —

  • Wendy Peirce
  • Judy Moran
  • Renate
  • Tania Herman
  • Roberta William
  • Andrea Mohr
  • Caroline Reed Robertson
  • Heather Park (a former officer at this correction centre who helped in the escape of women prisoners in 1993)

3. Things to Know About Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

The atmosphere at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre may be complex and challenging, but it is also an institution created to give women the help they need to turn their lives around.

Prisoners at this centre participate in many recreational activities such as education and work and deliver programs such as training. Some of the notable lists of programs include—

  • Educational and vocational training programs
  • Reintegration programs
  • Family-Support Programs
  • Mental Health programs
  • Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Program
By https://csba.vic.gov.au/

3.1 Information About Visitation at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

Visitors can enter the premises but must undergo severe and heavy security screenings. Specific rules about visitation are mentioned on the website. Following those rules is obligatory and necessary.

Prisoners are encouraged to have visitors and be in contact with their family and friends. They can use email, phone, or in-person visits to do so. Some of the rules that visitors should follow are —

  1. If one plans to visit this centre, they must book in advance.
  2. Every prisoner has an approved visitor list. The visitor must be on this approved list by the prisoner to be given visitation rights.
  3. Only selected items like the visitor’s identification, etc., can be taken with them to the prison.
  4. Compliance with the dress code and dressing appropriately are necessities and should not be taken lightly by visitors.
  5. They should not wear any clothing that is considered revealing. They should also avoid any clothing that can potentially hide any contraband.
  6. Foods and beverages are strictly prohibited in the visitor’s area.
  7. Visitors are requested to be respectful to the star and others present.

This is entirely to provide prisoners with an experience considered supportive and meaningful. Having visits from family and friends is supposed to be a good experience for the prisoners.

By https://csba.vic.gov.au

4. The Recovery Program of Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

As evident from the name, the Recovery program was created to aid women with skills and knowledge that one would find necessary for finding employment, secure housing, etc. Some of the programs offered here are —

4.1 The Recovery Pathway

There are many barriers that prisoners, in general, will have to face once they are released back into the community. This program allows the women to formulate a plan and address any barriers they might face after release.

Many workshops are held in this program, notable on efficient topics like how to write a resume, look for employment or a job, or budget.

4.2 The Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program

The Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program offers group counselling as well as medication management. As the name suggests, this program allows female prisoners to address issues related to substance abuse on an individual and group-level basis.

4.3 The Life Skills Program:

Life skills are necessary and part and parcel of everyone’s life. The centres believe that the sentencing to prison shouldn’t deprive or hurt the prisoners; the life skills program aids in teaching the women prisoners skills like cooking, cleaning, and budgeting.

The DPFC proves to be a helpful resource and facility for women planning to be released from prison. However, this isn’t the only practical or resourceful centre, notably helping female prisoners. Some of the other resources that might aid women in prisons are as follows —

  • The Department of Corrections Website: This website is easily accessible and open-source. It provides information that will help these women join the social community
  • The Salvation Army: The Salvation Army helps provide services that will help women prisoners join back into the community, just like the Reintegration of DPFC
    Women's Lives Behind Bars | TODAY Show Australia

5. Facilities at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre houses remand prisoners and the first prisoners awaiting trial. The Centre also provides forensic care services. The facilities provided to first prisoners are such—

  • A self-contained unit
  • Single cells that have ensuites
  • A library
  • A health area
  • A visiting area
  • Two cell blocks. Each cell block holds protection prisoners and prisoners who often display poor behaviours.

6. Conclusion

The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre has carried a legacy for thousands of years. It is a beacon of hope, the centre of resilience, and a chance for many female prisoners to start all over.

The vision of this facility has created a significant and lasting influence on the community. It can be said that Dame Phyllis Frost Center is a light mark and a blueprint for recovery efforts that must be conducted in the future.

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