Queensland prisons at risk of ‘significant corruption’, watchdog finds

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Updated

December 14, 2018 17:51:34

The use of excessive force, overcrowding and inappropriate relationships inside Queensland’s prison system has put it at risk of “significant corruption”, according to a report from the state’s corruption watchdog.

Key points:

  • The report made 33 recommendations including improving CCTV.
  • Three people have been charged since the investigation began.
  • The State Government is yet to comment on the CCC’s recommendations

The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has released a scathing report into corrective services which details a string of systemic issues.

It found excessive use of force, misuse of authority, introduction of contraband and inappropriate relationships are all manifesting in Queensland’s prisons.

CCC Chairman Alan MacSporran took the issues a step further saying the entire criminal justice system needed to be overhauled.

“It’s not just about what happens in prisons because that’s just where you accommodate people,” he said.

“There’s a much broader issue that needs to be addressed in effect, the entire criminal justice system, the sentencing region, the diversion programs… and methods to reduce recidivism.”

The investigation by the CCC, dubbed Taskforce Flaxton, began in March and spent months talking to staff, prisoners and senior public servants.

Of particular concern was significant overcrowding, with almost all Queensland prisons operating above capacity, and Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin himself describing it as the “most pressing operational issue”.

The report warned that overcrowding was not only putting strain on infrastructure but also allowed for corrupt behaviour to be hidden and increases the risk of excessive use of force to control poor behaviour.

Current figures show Queensland prisons are at 125 per cent capacity — all but one of the men’s prisons and about half of the women’s prisons are running above capacity.

“The CCC is of the view that alleviating prison overcrowding is essential to reducing corruption risk and corruption in Queensland prisons,” the report stated.

‘Inhumane treatment breeds contempt’

Two of Queensland’s 14 prisons are privately operated — Arthur Gorrie and the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre — where a significant proportion of prisoners are detained.

The report described privately run prisons as “profit-driven organisations”.

Mr MacSporran said outsourcing led to an even greater corruption risk but it was ultimately up to the State Government to decide if the model should continue.

“We have flagged corruption risks that arise simply by virtue of the model that is operated by the private sector,” he said.

“You can’t have one overarching framework within which integrity and governance is monitored when you have a public private system.”

The CCC advised the State Government to adopt 33 recommendations including an overhaul of its anti-corruption strategy, improve its CCTV network and conduct an organisational-wide cultural overhaul.

Alex Scott from Together Queensland, the union which represents prison workers, said the report showed the correctional system was at “breaking point”.

“At the end of the day, we need to make sure that our prisons are properly run, properly funded and properly staffed,” he said.

Mr Scott said the “fundamental problem” of overcrowding needed to be addressed if staff behaviour was to change.

“We need long-term solutions rather than band-aid solutions … putting beds in doesn’t reduce overcrowding,” he said.

“It ameliorates the problem, but doesn’t solve it. We either need less prisoners or more prisons.”

Mr MacSporran said greater prison reform was possible.

“People routinely say in this space there are no votes in prisons — that is a catch cry, a theory, for why there hasn’t been proper funding in this space,” he said.

“Inhumane treatment breeds contempt of authority, and is a significant risk to public safety and should be recognised that way.

“An upfront investment which cures the corruption and corruption risk in the system and treats prisoners in a humane way will do much for improving the prospects of guaranteeing the safety of the community at large when these people are released.”

Three people have been charged with a variety of offences since the investigation began.

The State Government is yet to comment on the report and its recommendations.

Topics:

law-crime-and-justice,

corruption,

prisons-and-punishment,

qld,

brisbane-4000

First posted

December 14, 2018 16:10:51



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