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Queensland 'comfortable' with damning prison report

AAP logoAAP 27/09/2016 Evan Schwarten

Queensland's Corrections Minister Bill Byrne is "comfortable" with the service in prisons despite an ombudsman's report showing pregnant inmates sleep on the floor due to overcrowding.

The Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre was on Tuesday named as the state's most overcrowded prison in a report by ombudsman Phil Clarke.

Mr Clarke said there had been a significant increase in assaults, self-harm and suicide attempts at the facility.

"In my view, QCS (Queensland Corrective Services) has failed to provide adequate living conditions for prisoners at BWCC," he wrote.

As a way of managing the problems, the department "continues to make extensive use of doubling-up prisoners" in cells designed for one person, Mr Clarke said.

As a consequence, pregnant prisoners were required to sleep on mattresses on the floor.

However, QCS on Tuesday said pregnant inmates weren't compelled to share a cell and were always allocated a built bed.

Mr Byrne said the problems in the report were well known.

"We are well-attuned to the issues that come from overcapacity," he said.

"I'm very confident about the level of safety and security that applies to principle staff and also prisoners under normal, day to day circumstances."

Prison officials lead Pauline Hanson (centre) to freedom from the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre in November 2003. © AAP Image/Tony Phillips Prison officials lead Pauline Hanson (centre) to freedom from the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre in November 2003. Mr Byrne said mattresses were also placed on the floor in male prisons, but inmates in Queensland were "well-accommodated, well-fed, (and) supervised".

"I'm comfortable with the level of service provided to Queensland prisoners, whether they're pregnant or not," he said.

Mr Byrne said the report "somewhat disregarded" much of the background material that impacts on why women were incarcerated in the first place, including drug use, mental health problems and histories of abuse.

He announced the Palaszczuk government would spend $1 million on a new female prisoner re-integration program, expected to be operational by next month.

Mr Byrne said the program was not something that had been "crafted in the short term" and criticised the former Liberal National Party government for cutting reintegration services.

He said Queensland could not simply build its way out of the overcrowding issue because even if a new facility was ordered no new cells would open for three years.

However, shadow attorney-general Ian Walker said the government had to act quickly and slammed Mr Byrne for dismissing the overcrowding as a comfort issue.

"We at the LNP don't expect prisoners to be housed in the Taj Mahal," he said.

"But we do expect that they will be in proper and decent conditions because if they're not it leads to considerable discipline measures in our jails ... it puts our hard-working prisoner officers at risk."

Mr Walker also said Labor had trashed the LNP's proposal to convert the Southern Queensland Correctional Centre at Gatton into a women's prison, which would have helped address the overcrowding problem.

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