Together Union delegate Jason Hunt with Woodford correctional officers who took industrial action on May 16.
Together Union delegate Jason Hunt with Woodford correctional officers who took industrial action on May 16. Kyle Zenchyson

Why our prison system is costing you a fortune

WITH prisons facing an overcrowding crisis and the system costing $85,000 per inmate per year, the correctional officers charged with keeping a lid on simmering tensions are calling for a rethink of how we punish.

Woodford Correctional Centre is currently 200 prisoners over capacity, costing the state's budget and taxpayers an additional $17 million annually.

The extras sleeping on mattresses on the floor in cells designed for one inmate are resulting in an increased volatility and a resultant greater risk to prison officers.

It's a situation replicated across the state.

Jason Hunt, the Together delegate at Woodford, said while overcrowding had eased the situation remains terrible.

He said cells were never meant to be spacious but the lack of any level of privacy made everything more volatile and had seen an increase in assault rates which spiked badly in 2013, tapered in 2014 and then worsened again in 2015.

Mr Hunt said Corrective Services Minister Bill Byrne was talking with staff and bunk beds had been ordered to alleviate some of the problems with staff-prisoner ratios also being improved.

But he said construction of a new prison would be extremely expensive, take years to site, plan and build and would provide no antidote to current issues.

"The short-term churn of young offenders serving short sentences for minor crimes is clogging the system for anywhere from three to seven months,'' Mr Hunt said.

"Is there another way using community service, supervision or fine payment on instalment?

"There are a number of things which need to be considered."

He said breaches of parole for matters like failing to report often led to a 28-day sanction (re-imprisonment) which could stretch to up to four months by the time it was processed.

"In Queensland it costs $85,000 to keep one prisoner in jail for a year,'' Mr Hunt said.

"There must be a cheaper way to manage some punishment. Being tough on crime comes at a cost."

Minister for Corrective Services Bill Byrne said if a judge orders that someone is locked up, that's what would happen.

"However, under the former government we saw an increase of almost 30% in prisoner numbers because they abolished diversionary courts, introduced mandatory sentencing and had no plan when it came to corrections," Mr Byrne said.

"The Palaszczuk government is committed to alleviating prisoner capacity pressure in Queensland correctional centres.

"Already this year we have re-introduced Murri Court as well as launched our election commitment of Community Policing Boards across the state.

"The re-commissioning of the Borallon Training and Correctional Centre for young offenders is part of our plan.

"It will be re-commissioned in stages and the first secure unit is now operational. By July, Borallon will accommodate around 250 prisoners.

"We made a decision to re-open the prison in stages after an independent safety audit, which found a number of older designed cells did not meet current safety standards.

"I will continue to work with Corrective Services, the Attorney-General as well as the broader community to reduce overcrowding in our prisons."