Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) is facing a significant security challenge as overcrowding within correctional centres throughout Queensland continues to rise. A recent submission by the QCS to the Crime and Corruption Commission reported that the prison population has risen by over 50% since January 2012. By April this year, it is expected that Queensland’s correctional centres will be at 131% capacity.
This raises serious concerns for critical infrastructure security. Operational disruption to prisons can have significant consequences on domestic security, the economy, governance, public health, confidence and safety. According to QCS, overcrowding has numerous impacts on jails, including:
- An increase in the occurrence of inmate death, injury and escape;
- Reduction in the opportunity for dynamic security through effective offender interaction;
- Reduction in access to rehabilitation opportunities, compromising community safety and presenting workplace health and safety risks for jail staff.
Indeed, the correlation between these factors and overcrowding becomes clear, with statistics showing that staff assaults by inmates has risen from 129 in 2012 to 305 in 2017. The QCS Commissioner, Peter Martin, conceded that chronic overcrowding is the biggest problem in Queensland jails today.
Overcrowding in prisons has been a well-documented issue, leading to security concerns across the globe. In England and Wales, overcrowding remained an issue in 56% of prisons in 2015, with 1,630 men being held in cells designed for 963 in one prison. In his report, Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick warned that this has led to prisons becoming places of violence, squalor and idleness, with staff assaults rising by 28% in the last five years.
Importantly, the QCS is working with the government in a concerted effort to reduce overcrowding in jails. Since 2015, various strategies have been implemented to tackle this issue. These strategies include allowing increased cell access, providing inmates with headphones, supplying more exercise equipment and allowing more time outdoors. What is more, this year the government has promised to set aside $200 million dedicated to increasing capacity and facilities in Queensland jails. This involved a rollout of staff body-worn cameras to enhance security and deter poor behaviour.
While it remains unclear whether these strategies will prove effective in reducing overcrowding and its ripple effects, it is nevertheless a positive step towards recognising the issue and addressing it. The safety and security of critical infrastructure such as correction centres has a huge impact on the functioning of society and requires enhanced levels of protection. You can find out more about the projects Agilient has worked on in this sector here.