Written by Imogen Kars, edited for online by Riana Horner
Staff at five Queensland prisons are walking off the job this week in effort to negotiate the overcrowded conditions they work in.
The strikes, which came as a result of delayed negotiations with the Queensland State Government, has left minimal workers from Lotus Glen, Capricornia, Woodford, Brisbane and Wolston jails in place to run the prisons.
The state’s prison population has soared to over 7,000, more than 1,100 over the official capacity.
Prison staff believe the over-crowding problem is to blame for the rise in violence, creating a dangerous working environment.
President of Sisters Inside and former prisoner Debbie Kilroy is calling on the State Government to re-assess its stance when it comes to holding prisoners on remand.
“We aren’t calling on the government for more prisons to be built, what we are calling on is actually for people to be released,” Ms Kilroy said.
“Women in Queensland’s prisons, over 50 per cent are there either on remand or breaches, usually minor breaches of violations.
“They are not serving a sentence and they do not need to be in a prison,” she added.
The Queensland State Parliament revealed there were 755 more prisoners than beds at the beginning of this year, forcing inmates to share.
Ms Kilroy said a reassessment on parole needs to be a focus if there are going to be any changes to prison conditions.
“It could actually reduce prison population fairly quickly, but it needs to happen quickly by the government,” she said.
Associate Professor Michael Benes from RMIT University said it is inevitable prison staff will face a difficult task, but conditions could be greatly improved.
“It is very difficult for prisoner officials to maintain the control and to maintain security and at the same time provide the necessary advice that they have done for such a long time.”
Prison staff are seeking total compensation when assaulted at work, as one of their main negotiations with the State Government.
They are currently only receiving 85 per cent.
Prison staff who are not striking will undergo meetings throughout the week to endorse motions relating to the negotiations.