In December 2018, the Crime and Corruption Commission released its report named Taskforce Flaxton looking at corruption risks within Queensland prisons.

The summary and recommendations of that report are instructive.

They note that in 2017 Queensland Corrective Services was established as a standalone agency where previously it had been part of the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General.

There are 14 prisons in Queensland with 2 being managed under private contracts namely Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre and Southern Queensland Correctional Centre at Gatton.

The CCC found that prison overcrowding is negatively affecting the way prisons operate and the CCC said that alleviating prison overcrowding is essential to reducing corruption risk in Queensland prisons.

The CCC report also noted the necessity for an enhanced independent inspection function. In that regard, the Sofronoff review into Queensland prisons recommended in 2016 that there be an Independent Inspectorate of prisons in Queensland and it is expected that Inspectorate should be modelled on the United Kingdom system which has operated for quite a long time.

Queensland could also learn in a practical sense from the operation of the Western Australian model of an Independent Inspectorate, the essence of which is without notice, ‘spot’ visits be made by the Independent Inspectorates to prisons not only to address the corruption risks but also to ensure that facilities meet minimum standards. It is something of a worry that despite the fact that the Sofronoff review recommended that the establishment of an independent inspectorate, the CCC in its Operation Flaxton report published in December 2018 made the following critical comments:-

“The Government supported these recommendations (especially the establishment of an Independent Inspectorate to report to Parliament and not to the Department arising from the Sofronoff report). In its submission, QCS indicated that it is working with relevant agencies to commence the initial work on the recommended Inspectorate and associated legislative requirements however little observable progress has been made.”[1]

It is worrying that as of December 2018, 2 years after the recommendation for an Independent Inspectorate, QCS is only at the stage of commencing initial work on the recommendation.

It is noteworthy that the CCC has been critical of QCS observing that as late as December 2018 little observable process has been made in respect of this proposal.

The current Inspectorate model in Queensland prisons is inadequate and reports only to the Department and none of its reports are made public.

In the UK where the Independent Inspectorate model has worked for decades, there are regular reports published critical of health and accommodation standards falling well below minimum agreed international requirements for jails.

It is time that the Queensland Corrective Services gets its act together and starts implementing this important recommendation.

[1] See Operation Flaxton report page 50.