prison07c CI07/0308/4 Capricornia Correctional Centre
prison07c CI07/0308/4 Capricornia Correctional Centre Chris Ison

Last strike for Bill Byrne’s overcrowded prisons

STRIKES at five of Queensland's largest prisons - Lotus Glen, Capricornia, Woodford, Brisbane and Wolston - come as Labor's Police Minister Bill Byrne struggles to deal with prisoner overcrowding across the state.

Shadow Police and Correctional Services Minister Tim Mander said staff at the correctional centres were concerned about the rising rate of incidents and assaults as a result of Labor's prison bed shortage.

"The LNP had a clear plan to combat overcrowding in our prisons and keep our correctional staff safe… Labor has been intent on playing politics and unravelling our fully-funded plan," Mr Mander said.

"Since the do-nothing Palaszczuk Labor Government has come to office, prison overcrowding has increased by five per cent with no end in sight.

"The union organising the strikes has said the rampant overcrowding has led to an increase in incidents and assaults involving prison staff but Minister Byrne refuses to act.

"In opposition, Bill Byrne said 'the Corrective Services Minister needs to be held personally responsible' for any incidents as a result of prison overcrowding.

"When is Minister Byrne going to take responsibility for the overcrowding occurring under his watch and admit he does not have a plan?"

Mr Mander said the next step in the LNP's plan to address overcrowding included $61 million to increase prison capacity by 650 beds but Labor had scaled back the plan.

"The key to prison overcrowding was bringing the Borallon Correctional Centre back online which would add 492 beds and was due to be opened by the LNP in mid-2015," he said.

"Bill Byrne has instead announced a 'staged re-opening' which would see about half the beds brought online a year after schedule.

"It isn't good enough for Bill Byrne to sit on his hands while staff struggle to deal with a surging prisoner population."

"The Palaszczuk Government is taking steps to address prison numbers in Queensland's prison facilities with short, medium and long-term solutions.

"Today's attack by Shadow Police Minister Tim Mander is ironic considering he was a member of the government that created this mess that we find us in today.

"The dysfunctional management of the policy direction by the former LNP Government caused our current predicament, a direction to which Mr Mander himself wished to be leader of a week ago.

But Mr Byrne said prisoner numbers in Queensland went through the roof with an increase of almost 30% in three years under the LNP.

He added the Palaszczuk Government was taking steps to address prison numbers in Queensland's prison facilities with short, medium and long-term solutions.

"They cut diversionary programs and shut down specialised courts like the Murri Courts, offering up failed boot camps," he said.

"Last month, this Government launched the re-opening of the Murri Courts, to re-establish diversionary options to lower the number of people entering into the prison system.

"The LNP's boot camp plan was based on the misguided view that stronger penalties would reduce youth crime. Instead, the re-offending rate reached 78%."

Mr Byrne said their policy represented poor value for money, and was ill-thought out.

"There was no cost-benefit analysis and no measurable outcomes for reducing recidivism - just populist policy on the run," he said.

"Under the previous LNP government, we saw an increase in the number of young people who exited detention and returned within 12 months. It was a failed experiment.

"The Palaszczuk Labor Government has listened to the community, taken their concerns on board, and has developed sensible, workable solutions to help turn young lives around."

Mr Byrne said the re-commissioning of the Borallon Training and Correctional Centre for young offenders is part of the government's plan.

"Borallon will be publicly-run, not handed over to private companies, which would have been the case under the LNP," he said.

"It will be re-commissioned in stages. By July this year, Borallon will accommodate around 250 prisoners.

"We made the decision to re-open the prison stages after an independent safety audit found a number of older cells did not meet current safety standards.

"The safety of young prisoners and staff is important and we will continue to work closely with prison staff and their representatives towards a fair outcome that will be in everyone's best interests."

The Minister said the re-commissioning of Borallon would ease prisoner numbers in south east Queensland and support local jobs.

Key facts and background:

At 1 Jan 2015 prisons were at 107.3 % capacity while at 1 Jan 2016 prisons are at 112.2% capacity.

-  Between 1 Jan 2015 and 1 Jan 2016 prison capacity only increased from 6129 to 6201 while prison population increased from 6577 to 6956 over the same period.  

- Michael Thomas, Together Union: "We've got a situation in Queensland at the moment where every single prison around the state is overcrowded - we're seeing increases in assaults, increases in incidents - so, we've got a range of claims that we've been trying to pursue through bargaining." ABC News: 16 May, 2016

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