Courier Mail Article - Jail Inspectorate Must Be Independent, Says Top Civil Liberties Lawyer Terry O’Gorman

The Courier Mail has published an article regarding the establishment of an independent inspectorate of prisons for Queensland featuring comments by Robertson O'Gorman's Terry O'Gorman. The article is extracted below, and is available on the Courier Mail website here.

Jail inspectorate must be independent, says top Civil Liberties lawyer Terry O’Gorman

Thomas Chamberlin, The Courier-Mail

THE bashing of a prison officer has reignited calls for a new independent inspectorate of prisons which would report to parliament and highlight problems with Queensland jails.

Prisoner on prisoner bashings, excessive force by guards towards prisoners and the significant inadequacies of rehabilitation programs in Queensland jails – are but some of the problems.

It comes after The Courier-Mail today revealed the injuries to an officer who was savagely bashed by a prisoner at Woodford last month after he was told he had to share his cell with another prisoner.

Civil Liberties Council Vice-President Terry O’Gorman said it took the assault and increased threats of industrial action to bring out the serious problems within Queensland jails.

“But there are other systemic problems which never get public attention including prisoner on prisoner bashings, excessive force by guards towards prisoners and the significant inadequacies of rehabilitation programs in Queensland jails”, Mr O’Gorman said in a statement.

“In early December the QCCL highlighted harsh criticism by Supreme Court Justice (Peter) Applegarth in respect of a prisoner who has been kept in jail well beyond his full time release date because he was not placed on a rehabilitation program for sexual offenders.”

Mr O’Gorman said that Justice Applegarth in the case of Queensland Attorney-General v FJA1 said: “if the system had offered [FJA] a much needed (rehabilitation program) place over the last 18 months and he had completed the program satisfactorily, he probably would have been released in late 2018 on a supervision order. The system having failed [FJA] and the community in this way, regrettably he must be detained in custody for treatment”.

Mr O’Gorman said that the overcrowding issues could not be solved by building more prisons.

“It cost Queensland taxpayers more than $500 million a year to house a ballooning prison population when over the last decade crime statistics show that crime generally is falling”, Mr O’Gorman said.

The Queensland prison system already has a chief inspector who reports to the commissioner.

The Crime and Corruption Commission’s taskforce Flaxton report into prison corruption, which was released last month, also recommended an independent inspectorate be established.

Mr O’Gorman said the State Government needed to establish an independent prison inspectorate, similar to Western Australia.

“Unlike the current Queensland Inspectorate model which reports internally to the Corrective Services Commissioner, Peter Martin, the WA model report publicly to parliament and is completely independent of the prison bureaucracy”, Mr O’Gorman said.

“Western Australia does not have the systemic problems in its prison system that Queensland has and this has a lot to do with unannounced prisons inspections by the independent Prisons Inspectorate.

“We cannot continue to mindlessly spend an increasing amount of taxpayers’ money on prisons”, Mr O’Gorman said.

A spokesman for the government said the government had already committed to establishing an independent inspectorate.

“Talks between relevant departments have already commenced,” he said.