Woodford prison’s overcrowding issues laid bare
Nearly 400 inmates at the Woodford Correctional Centre are sharing cells and 90 of those are sleeping on mattresses on the floor, which the prison union says leads to more stress and violence.
Together Union industrial services director Michael Thomas said there were 1437 inmates currently inside the centre, crammed into 1008 singular-designed cells.
Queensland Corrective Services confirmed the numbers were accurate and said of those, 390 prisoners were sharing cells.
Corrective services said there were "approximately" 90 inmates on mattresses on the floor - numbers which it said fluctuated daily.
Mr Thomas said the poor conditions led directly to a spike in assaults on inmates and on officers.
In the past two years some of the violence reported inside the jail has included an alleged murder in "suspicious" circumstances, attacks on inmates and officers, and a "code black" riot involving 15 prisoners using makeshift weapons and smashed glass.
"It's not pretty," Mr Thomas said of the cells.
"Before they put the bunk beds in it was mattresses on the floor, so they'd be walking over one another.
"You get stressed prisoners stuck in rooms that are very small, no open windows of course.
"They're really only big enough for just one person.
"The numbers have steadily increased since 2013 and that means they have less access to programs, industries and rehabilitation to re-enter into society."
When asked whether or not it was fair for so many inmates to be sharing cells, Queensland Corrective Services said it had no control over the number of people sentenced to jail.
"Our primary role is to enhance community safety through the secure and lawful incarceration of prisoners," a corrective services spokesman said.
"Our role is to contribute to community safety by enacting the orders of the courts."
Mr Thomas said the officers were still haunted by the horrific assault of a former colleague who was set upon and bashed within inches of his life in December 2018.
It's understood the inmate had been told he would be sharing his cell with another inmate.
"He almost died and that is still in the memory," Mr Thomas said.
"Every time they go to work it's in the back of their minds.
"And what we're seeing at Woodford, the secure units are built for 50 (inmates) but have 80 in there.
"That's two or three officers and 80 prisoners."
The spokesman said there were 745 officers at the Woodford centre.
Mr Thomas said the number of assaults inside all Queensland jails coincided with the overcrowding issues.
"It's very stressful for the officers," Mr Thomas said.
"Often the safest practice comes from engaging with them and knowing when the atmosphere is wrong.
"But when there's 80 prisoners the ability is reduced."
In response to the union's claim that overcrowding led to higher stress levels and more assaults, the service said officer safety was the "absolute priority".
"We work closely with the staffing group, using all available resources to maintain the safety and security of our centres, including modified structured days, to maximise security," the spokesman said.
The spokesman said there would be an extra 4000 beds added to the existing capability across the state by 2023.
"That includes the expansion of the Capricornia Correctional Centre, which will deliver an additional 398 beds when it is online in coming months," he said.
"Additionally, planning for a new 1000 bed prison near Gatton is progressing, with the prison to open in 2022-23.
"In recent years, the installation of 2000 bunk beds across a number of prisons has significantly increased prison capacity within existing built infrastructure."