Why prison overflow puts staff, residents in danger

Townsville's prisons have been revealed as some of the most overcrowded in the state despite a bed boost in the complex plagued by controversy.

A Question on Notice has revealed that Townsville Correctional Centre has been overcapacity since the start of the year and has been, on average, among the top two overcrowded prisons in the state.

For January, the prison was sitting at 114 per cent capacity and tapered down to 107 per cent capacity in May.

At its highest capacity the prison was just below Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre which was at 121 per cent capacity.

Together Union organiser Norm Jacobsen said overcrowding put prison staff at serious risk.

"The impacts on the staff from overcrowding is obviously assault rates have increased and there is a lot more pressure on the staff workloads," he said.

Together Union organsier Norm Jacobsen said staff are at risk of assaults when prisons are overcrowded.
Together Union organsier Norm Jacobsen said staff are at risk of assaults when prisons are overcrowded.

Mr Jacobsen said rehabilitation was also put on the backburner as the infrastructure struggled with deal with more prisoners.

He said the lack of education and rehab caused by overcrowding put the community at risk when prisoners were finally released.

"It becomes more of a lock them up and throw away the key-type system," he said.

A spokesman from Queensland Corrective Services said the issue was not unique to Townsville.

"We are keenly aware that the increase in prisoner population makes this even more challenging, and the management group at Townsville Correctional Complex is working closely with the staffing group to ensure the safety and security of the prison," he said.

The Townsville Correctional Centre. Picture: Evan Morgan
The Townsville Correctional Centre. Picture: Evan Morgan

The results come in wake of an independent review of Townsville's jails which included reports of bullying, poor conduct and a lack of fairness.

Acting Chief Superintendent Louise Kneeshaw has been acting general manager in place of Peter Hall who was stood down on January 20.

More than 70 bunk beds were installed at the prison in August last year and a further 38 beds are due to be installed by October.

The low custody prison saw similar results, with the capacity overflowing at 124 per cent in April. It was the worst in the state at the time.

Townsville Women's Correctional Centre showed positive results throughout this year and never had more prisoners than beds.

The women's complex also had 30 extra beds installed in November last year.

Townsville Correctional Centre has recorded some of the highest overcrowding rates in the state. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Townsville Correctional Centre has recorded some of the highest overcrowding rates in the state. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"The installation of bunk beds is just one strategy being implemented to address the impacts of increasing prisoner numbers across Queensland," the spokesman said.

"Installing more beds and bunk beds removes mattresses from the floors of cells to improves living conditions and increases the safety of prisoners and officers by decreasing the impacts of overcrowding."

The spokesman said big expansions at other jails would make room for prisoners in overcrowded complexes, but Mr Jacobsen said this was not enough.

"It's a drop in the ocean," he said. "They need to build more jails."

Originally published as Why prison overflow puts staff, residents in danger


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