Queensland’s prison system is overcrowded and rife with corruption, including guards bashing inmates and providing them with drugs and even weapons, a damning new report has found.
The Crime and Corruption Commission’s Taskforce Flaxton also raised serious concerns about the lack of oversight in two privately-operated, high-security prisons.
“There is no doubt that overcrowding is the single greatest threat to the mitigation of corruption and corruption risks in prisons,” Alan MacSporran QC said on Friday.
The CCC said authorities cannot properly keep tabs on what was really going on when prisons are bursting at the seams.
Its report found there were 223 corruption allegations made against prison staff between October 2017 and March 2018.
But the actual number could be three times higher due to under-reporting.
The watchdog found instances of staff supplying drugs or weapons to inmates, colluding to avoid searches and coaxing prisoners to bash fellow inmates.
Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan said he was confident the department was well-placed to respond to issues identified in the report.
“We will give this report and its recommendations serious consideration with a view to providing a detailed response in the coming months,” he said.
Mr Ryan said $15 million would be allocated over two years to pay for an extra 1000 prison beds, bringing the total number of new beds promised by the government to 3000.
However Mr MacSporran said making more space was a short-term solution.
He wants to see wider reforms within the criminal justice system to prevent people from ending up in prisons in the first place and adding to overcrowding.
“Even if today you decide to build a new prison to accommodate the numbers, by the time you’ve built the prison, which will be some years hence, you’ll have another number of prisoners which can’t be accommodated,” he said.
The report makes 33 recommendations, including better training for fresh recruits in the prison system, greater use of body-worn cameras, and more security cameras to cover black spots in jails.
It also raised serious concerns with the privately-run Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and Southern Queensland Correctional Centre.
The CCC said the prisons, run by multi-national corporations, had “their own tone at the top”.
And it raised concerns about the ability of Queensland Corrective Services to effectively monitor private contracts.
United Voice Queensland spokesman Damien Davie said it was clear safety standards and transparency at private facilities should be tightened.
“This report reaffirms what our members have been telling us for months – that corruption is rife and cover-ups are the norm at private prisons like Arthur Gorrie,” he said.