Prison officers’ new weapon in bid to beat violence
PRISON officers will trial capsicum spray after the savage bashing of a colleague but say the government must also inject more funding into Queensland jails.
Officers today met to create a plan to put to the government and say there is a crisis within Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) because of overcrowding.
It comes after a prison officer was coward punched and repeatedly kicked by a prisoner at Woodford jail after he told him he had to continue sharing a cell with another crim.
He was flown to hospital in a serious condition with multiples fractures to his nose, cheek, eye sockets and jaw and has undergone surgery after the assault last month.
Together Union branch secretary Alex Scott said officers wanted safety in the short term but long term investment from the government to address overcrowding.
After negotiations in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission, the union says QCS has agreed to put an extra staff member on the floor at Woodford and have agreed for a trial at the jail in which one officer per unit will have capsicum spray.
"Every centre in Queensland is overcrowded," Mr Scott said. "Every centre in Queensland is unsafe for our members.
"The tragic circumstances that occurred prior to Christmas were quite clearly foreseeable by this government.
"We know what causes overcrowding, we know the impact of overcrowding. We now need to fix overcrowding."
Jails across Queensland were 1950 prisoners over capacity in November. Prisoners are "doubling up" in cells, in which one sleeps on a mattress on the floor or on a bunk bed. But officers say this has led to increased assaults to both prisoners and staff.
Mr Scott said government officials knew the solutions that were needed but the department doesn't have the money to pay for them. He said regional prisons provided significant investment for regional Queensland if a new jail was to be built.
Business cases for a new 1000-bed jail at Gatton and an expansion of remand centre Arthur Gorrie have been completed however the government is yet to comment about them.
Mr Scott said there were countless reports including the Sofronoff parole review and the Crime and Corruption Commission's Taskforce Flaxton report which called for prison overhauls.
The CCC report found there had been increased assaults in prisons due to overcrowding.
It said overcrowding was a corruption risk and negatively affected prison operation and "doubling up" of prisoners undermined safety and could lead to further criminalisation.
The Sofronoff parole review recommended major changes to the prison and parole system including a greater variety of rehabilitation programs, expanded re-entry services and long-term accommodation for prisoners and parolees.
"We are gravely concerned that report after report after report identifies the problems, identifies the solutions, but none of the funding is forthcoming," Mr Scott said.
"We are saying the government needs to revisit the Sofronoff recommendations and immediately fund the recommendations of the CCC Flaxton inquiry.
"The government can't keep on seeking further reviews into the problem rather than actually coming up with decisions to fund the solutions.
The government has rolled out more than 1000 new bunk beds and has announced $15m for another 1000 new beds but officers say that is not the solution as aggressive crims are fed up with sharing facilities built for far less people.
Borallon jail had reopened and now has beds for 736 prisoners and Capricornia will be expanded by 396 beds in the next two years.
"By 2020-21, we will have delivered up to 3,000 new beds in prisons across Queensland," the spokesman previously said.