Civil Liberties lawyer, Terry O’Gorman this week welcomed more rehabilitation services in Queensland prisons and the establishment of a single Statewide Parole Board as part of the State Government’s parole revamp.

Civil Liberties lawyer said that with the State’s prisons’ overcrowding at almost 120%, mental health and rehabilitation services risk being pushed further down the list of priorities for Queensland prisons as more and more money in the State’s prison budget risks being spent on more jails and more prison officers.

“Currently Wolston Correctional Centre has a capacity of 600 but has inmate numbers of 750, and that significant level of overcrowding is repeated in all prisons around the State”, Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman said that recidivism for prisoners in Queensland is above 60% and the sheer economics of the costs of this number of people repeatedly being returned to jail in Queensland needs to be confronted.

“More and more money is being spent on prisons which means less and less money for hospitals and schools”, Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman said that if any other State Government department had a 65% failure rate, it would be shut down.

Mr O’Gorman said that both the high rates of recidivism and overcrowding was significantly caused by too little money being available for jail programmes which prisoners have to undertake before being eligible for parole.

“Prison numbers are necessarily high because prisoners cannot get on to internal jail programmes until well into their sentence with some prisoners serving well beyond their parole eligibility date because of dwindling money being available for programmes”, Mr O’Gorman said.

Mr O’Gorman called for a further shake-up of the Prison and Parole System by the appointment of an Independent Prisons Inspectorate similar to that which operates in Western Australia and the UK.

“An Independent Prisons Inspectorate can report to Parliament and not to the Minister, and this opens up to public scrutiny inefficiencies and problems in both the Prison and Parole System”, Mr O’Gorman said.

“Not only will that result in bringing greater efficiencies to both the Prison Estate and the Parole Board and thereby save money but it would get rid of the ‘out of sight out of mind’ mentality which has characterised the Queensland Prison and Parole System for decades”, Mr O’Gorman said.