News State QLD News Queensland prison guards walk off the job, blame assault on overcrowding

Queensland prison guards walk off the job, blame assault on overcrowding

woodford correctional centre assault
The 45-year-old prison officer sustained serious facial injuries. Photo: Nine News
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Prison guards have walked off the job and sent a list of demands to the Queensland government after an officer was assaulted by an inmate.

The 45-year-old officer suffered serious facial injuries in the assault on Tuesday afternoon at Woodford Correctional Centre, north of Brisbane.

The Together Union largely blames increased violence on overcrowding and said delegates had repeatedly raised their “grave concerns”.

The Woodford prison is at 140 per cent capacity and squeezes in 265 more inmates than it’s made for, according to figures from September, released last week.

In a letter to Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan, the union said the the government needed to build another jail.

The list of demands also called for capsicum spray, body-worn cameras for all officers, half-unit lockdowns, two officers per “post” every day, for all assaults on staff to lead to charges and tougher sentences, and to install service hatches.

The union held meetings across the state on Wednesday, and officers at Woodford walked off the job.

The union requested a response within five days or members could strike statewide.

The letter blamed a lack of funding and inaction.

“Thus, we now find ourselves trying to console an officer and his family who was only by sheer luck not killed [on Tuesday],” the letter said.

“This officer now lies in a hospital bed with multiple face fractures and is faced with the extremely difficult road to recovery both physically and mentally, all the while wondering why his employer seemingly did very little to prevent his assault and the many other assaults on his colleagues and friends.”

Woodford members meeting this morning after the assault. Other meetings occurring around the state.

Posted by Together Queensland Prison Officers Union on Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Crime and Corruption Commission released its Taskforce Flaxton report last week, confirming assaults in prisons increased with overcrowding.

The report said Queensland prisons were at 125 per cent capacity.

It warned overcrowding “can increase prisoners’ anger and frustration, and increase the risk of conflict, violence and serious assaults against prisoners and staff”.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Ryan said he would work with the union and said his thoughts were with the officer.

“I understand and appreciate the union’s concerns and intend to meet with them at an appropriate time,” Mr Ryan said.

“We share a common goal of making sure our workplaces are as safe as they can be.”

He confirmed police were investigating the incident.

The 45-year-old officer remained at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital on Wednesday.

He is expected to undergo surgery for facial fractures.

The prisoner accused of punching and kicking the guard is serving a sentence for assault causing grievous bodily harm.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said it was an “atrocious attack” and said Labor needed to solve the overcrowding.

“Our prisons are being turned into fight clubs and prisons officers don’t deserve to be used as punching bags,” she said.

Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin said the assault was “disgraceful”.

“This is a stark reminder of the challenges our officers face as they work to keep the safety and security of our prisoners,” he said in a statement.

“Everyone deserves to come home safely at the end of their shift. Even one assault is too many. I am committed to working with the government to continue to improve safety for everyone.”

Commissioner Martin and his deputy Andrew Beck visited the officer, his family and colleagues on Tuesday night.

Woodford Corrective Centre staff were offered counselling.

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