FIGHT CLUB Prison guard as­saults on the rise

Fraser Coast Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - An­nie Perets Jes­sica Marsza­lek

PRISON of­fi­cers at the Mary­bor­ough jail are be­ing reg­u­larly hos­pi­talised as a prison ‘fight club’ emerges from over­crowd­ing.

There are fears of po­ten­tially fa­tal con­se­quences, if the in­mate pop­u­la­tion is not ad­dressed soon.

There were 664 pris­on­ers in­side the prison yes­ter­day putting it more than 30% over the de­signed ca­pac­ity of 500.

All 12 of Queens­land’s high-se­cu­rity jails are over­crowded.

New fig­ures show nearly 280 guards were as­saulted in the state last year, com­pared to 255 in 2016 and 186 in 2015.

Last month, a pris­oner faced Mary­bor­ough Dis­trict Court for spit­ting into an of­fi­cer’s face which was fol­lowed by the in­mate vi­o­lently punch­ing them.

Michael Thomas of To­gether Union, which rep­re­sents prison work­ers, said the union had real con­cerns one of its mem­bers could be killed.

“It is a dan­ger­ous en­vi­ron­ment and any as­sault is one too many,” Mr Thomas said.

“When­ever as­saults oc­cur, the out­comes can be ab­so­lutely very se­vere.”

He said it was a “tinderbox for vi­o­lence”.

“You’ve got more peo­ple rub­bing up against each other, two peo­ple put in sin­gle cells, the kitchen fa­cil­i­ties are only de­signed for a cer­tain num­ber, the benches and ta­bles are set up for a cer­tain num­ber,” he said.

“So you’ve got all these ten­sions and stresses.”

Mary­bor­ough MP Bruce Saun­ders said the gov­ern­ment was work­ing to ease over­pop­u­la­tion stress by hir­ing more staff.

“There’s no way to avoid (over­crowd­ing) un­less we spend $2-3 bil­lion,” Mr Saun­ders said.

“The pub­lic ex­pects peo­ple to be sen­tenced to jail and this is the fi­nal re­sults.”

Mr Thomas said an in­crease in staff helped the sit­u­a­tion, but was not the fi­nal so­lu­tion.

“To be fair, the gov­ern­ment have done a lot of work around in­creas­ing staffing.

“That al­le­vi­ates some of the prob­lem, but not all.

“At a cer­tain point, it doesn’t mat­ter how many staff, blocks or cells you have. You need to be do­ing things that dou­ble bunks within cells and try­ing to in­crease pro­grams that keep pris­on­ers oc­cu­pied.”

When­ever as­saults oc­cur, the out­comes can be ab­so­lutely very se­vere

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