SAFETY CONCERNS: The Maryborough Correctional Centre has hit a new level of overcrowding, now sitting at 20% overcapacity, and there is a worry of what it means for prison guards.
SAFETY CONCERNS: The Maryborough Correctional Centre has hit a new level of overcrowding, now sitting at 20% overcapacity, and there is a worry of what it means for prison guards. Robyne Cuerel

Overcrowded Maryborough prison bursting at the seams

SAFETY concerns of correctional officers at the Maryborough Correctional Centre is escalating, with the current inmate numbers at bursting point.

Increased stress levels, a bigger workload and longer hours are the daily reality for these employees.

And of course, there is the constant threat of violence.

The Fraser Coast facility is now more than 20% over capacity in its prisoner numbers.

As of Monday, there were 605 prisoners behind bars at the Maryborough Correctional Centre.

The centre is designed to hold 500.

At July 30, the centre had 210 full-time staff.

This includes correctional officers, correctional supervisors, trade instructors, activities officers and dog handlers.

Prisoners in a confinement with little space to move creates trouble for everyone, Together Union representative Ian Barber said.

"While officer numbers have increased, it hasn't stopped the increase rate of prisoners," he said.

"Jails are violent places, and with the overcrowding, the number of incidents is definitely escalating.

"People just don't have enough space to get away.

"The bottom line is, the centre was designed to hold a certain amount and now everything, especially resources, are obviously stretched."

In 2014, the correctional centre came under the spotlight for what was described as "rock bottom" when the centre was 11% overcrowded with 566 inmates.

The numbers have stayed consistently high, as the average daily prison population at Maryborough Correctional Centre was 581 prisoners between August 1 last year and July 31.

Mr Barber said from the developing trend, he only envisions the situation worsening.

"Every facility in the state is overcrowding," he said.

"So without a turnover, overcrowding will continue.

"The recommended staff to prisoner ratio has been thrown out the window."

Last month, a prisoner was taken from the facility and flown to Brisbane with serious head injuries.

Between August 1, 2015 and July 2016, there were 216 incidents of assaults recorded on prisoners.

In the same time-frame, there were 17 incidents of assaults by offenders on staff.

However none of these were serious, with 'serious' defined as the need for an emergency trip to the hospital and includes sexual offences.

Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders said to help take the strain off the centre's employees, he has worked with the Together Union and other MPs to lift the staff ratio.

"We have lifted the staff ratios at the centre, and have already have an intake of staff," he said.

"Currently, I am happy with the ratio of staff there."

 

Brainstorming solutions to beat the overcrowding problem

Mr Barber said the ideal situation to stop the overcrowding would be to increase the size of the prison.

"That's a huge capital investment, but probably the only real long term solution," he said.

The union worker suggested letting some prisoners serve their sentence at home with an attachment of an ankle monitor to them.

"With this method, they put a GPS device on the bands of ankles, allowing non-violent prisoners to serve the rest of their sentence from their home so they are not a drain on the community," Mr Barber said.

"They can still work this way, so help their family and it makes the transition out of the prison easier.

"However we do have the parole system which works similar."

Mr Barber is in full support of Mr Saunders' push for a prison camp in Maryborough.

The prison camp's idea is to put low-risk prisoners to work in the community, including helping out at events and for charity groups.

Guards would accompany those working prisoners on their jobs.

"There was some community resentment when it was announced, with one big criticism is that it would put people in danger," Mr Barber said.

"However the working inmates would be supervised.

"And when the prisoners are released into society, it won't be so much of a shock to them this way."

Mr Barber also cited a cut that happened to the correctional facility four years ago, as being responsible for the current high safety concerns of the prison's staff.



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