CONCERNS: This woman alleges that her partner is being mistreated at Wolston Correctional Centre.
CONCERNS: This woman alleges that her partner is being mistreated at Wolston Correctional Centre. Rob Williams

Man with kidney cancer fears dying on a prison floor

A LOWOOD man with end-stage kidney cancer has allegedly been forced to sleep on the floor of a prison cell for weeks and has no idea when he may be released, despite the fact he has reportedly not been charged with a crime.

The man's partner alleges he has been held without charge since October last year because he has nowhere to live outside of prison except for her home.

Their ordeal began after an argument in late October ended badly. He called police after she attempted to take her own life. Police officers eventually placed a Domestic Violence Protection Order against him.

Acting on legal advice, both the woman and her partner accepted the DVO without fighting it. According to the woman, her partner was arrested less than 24 hours later and has been in custody ever since.

As parties in a DVO, the couple cannot be publicly identified.

Citing privacy legislation, Queensland Corrective Services would not confirm whether the man had been charged or sentenced for a crime.

It would also not comment on the man's medical treatment or his living conditions.

"Due to privacy laws (Section 341 of the Corrective Services Act), QCS is unable to discuss the management of individual prisoners." QCS said in a statement to the QT.

Over the past six months, the woman has written to the parole board governing her partner's case, sought legal advice and attempted twice in court to have the DVO removed.

Her latest letter to the Queensland Parole Board pleads for his release.

"Please, I am begging you to release (name) so he can die out here, not on a prison floor," the letter says.


The reality of kidney cancer in prison:

Medical records seen by the Queensland Times show he had symptoms of extreme weight loss, anorexia and growing tumours in December last year. He was first diagnosed in 2014.

The record also shows he cannot be treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

The woman says her partner now relies on other prisoners for much of his daily care and is often confined to a wheelchair.

"If we're in pain, we can just go and get some painkillers. He can't do that," she said.

She said he spent at least one night this week in hospital, where he slept on a proper bed for the first time in weeks, and also alleges he is not allowed to take specific medication and has had surgical elements of his treatment delayed.

Health authorities say he has attended every appointment as per his requests.

"He is scared of dying in prison," the woman told the QT.

"I thought he was going to die on Saturday (during a visit), he looked so bad."


What is the challenge in removing the DVO?

The justice system faces a complex task when deciding on issues around domestic violence.

The DVO this couple is subject to shows officers feared the woman was at a high risk of controlling behaviour and potential violence and she suffered from a mental illness.

She told police on the night that her partner made her fearful and showed ongoing controlling behaviour, including instructing her not to take her medication.

She said these reports were made during a troubling episode caused by her post traumatic stress disorder and that the man had never hurt her.

But when placing or changing a DVO, police and judges must take into account worldwide research that shows victims of domestic violence often make excuses for or play down the abuse they may be subjected to.

In this case, the woman said her partner should be allowed to live in their shared home at Lowood.

The conditions of the DVO require only that the man displays good behaviour against his partner and not commit domestic violence against her - it does not limit contact between them.

She said he had not been charged with breaching a DVO and therefore had not committed a crime, or even been accused of a crime.

If he can't be released, the woman has called for him to at least be given a bed.


So why is he sleeping on the floor?

The sick man is one of 132 prisoners at Wolston Correctional Centre sleeping in double-up accommodation thanks to a chronic problem of overcrowding.

As of Wednesday, he was one of 743 prisoners living in a centre built for 600.

A QCS spokesperson said double-up accommodation included built beds, bunks or mattresses on the floor.

Queensland prisons have been using double-up accommodation on a regular basis for several years.

In January, media reports showed Queensland's prison system had to accommodate for more than 1000 people above its cell capacity. The woman said this overcrowding had contributed to her partner's poor treatment and missed medical appointments.

QCS would not comment on medical treatment received by prisoners because all prison healthcare is managed by West Moreton Hospital and Health Service.

WMHHS chief executive officer Sue McKee said four prisoners at Wolston were currently being treated for cancer, through the oncology team at Princess Alexandra Hospital.

"All patients have access to primary health care and are referred to specialist services as required," she said.

"Upon entry to a correctional facility, all prisoners receive a comprehensive health assessment which ensures management of pre-existing medical conditions.

"The prisoner has attended all appointments as per his care plan and requests."

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