At 6:30pm on Thursday night (11/05/2017) the people of Ararat were most likely eating their dinner or watching television. Unbeknown to them a dangerous sex offender had escaped from Corella Place, located just outside of town. Corella Place holds some of the state’s worst sex offenders and is referred to by the public as the ‘Village of the Damned’. It is where the state’s t sex offenders go once they have completed their sentences, but aren’t trusted to be released back into the community.
These offenders who are called ‘residents’ by Corrections Victoria, have many privileges inside Corella Place such as computers, phones and seven meals a day according to an Ararat resident, interviewed by A Current Affair last year. They are treated better than some members of the public, with taxpayers paying for it all. Corella Place residents also make regular trips into local shops to purchase products, accompanied by two prison officers at all times.
Over the past ten years there has been at least seven of these offenders escape the facility with some being on the run for days. The latest of them being on Thursday at around 6:30pm when a 41-year-old escaped, the Ararat public clueless. The only sign that something wasn’t right was the helicopter circling the east side of town which I and others spotted at around 9:20pm. At that time nothing had been said, but suspicions were growing amongst some members of the community. Around 40 minutes later, at 10pm, the Victorian Police posted a press release on their media page warning the public of the escapee with a picture of him attached.
The public had now been informed after three and a half hours of nothing. Anything could have happened in that time period, luckily it didn’t. The helicopter was still being spotted at around 11pm with the police continuing the search in the light of the full moon through the night.
The next morning a large majority of the public were waking up to the news for the first time, probably not surprised by the second escape in twelve months. A large number of Police vehicles were outside the Ararat Police station, a lot more than usual. I spoke to some of my fellow students once I arrived at school, some feeling very uncomfortable walking to school, others hadn’t even been told of the escape. Throughout our morning classes we followed the updates and talked to one of our teachers who lives in Beaufort, a popular direction for escapees to go. She was just as worried as we were, hoping for him to be caught.
Relief came at 11am Friday morning when police confirmed they had arrested the escapee at 10:30am near Beaufort. It was great news for the public who had been feeling uneasy for the last 16 hours, we were safe once more.
Now the question is raised again surrounding the public’s safety and the security of Corella Place. One of my friends, Tara Charlesworth, said “I reckon that we should be notified as soon as possible, so then we can be more alert.” All residents at Corella Place do wear tracking devices around their ankles, however they can be easily cut off by a pair of scissors. It has not been confirmed if the offender who escaped this week cut his off.
The state government is not listening to the concerns of Ararat residents so we are faced with escape after escape with no resolution to the problem. A fence can’t be put around Corella Place because of the resident’s rights according to the government. It seems that the offenders have more rights than the victims. The Ararat public will have to continue to live with the fear of another escape because it is certain to happen again. In the meantime, Ararat is going to be home to a new facility to house more offenders which is being built within the next 12 months. All Ararat can hope for is a very high fence and gates!
I contacted Corrections Victoria for comment but they were yet to reply at time of publishing.