The Women’s Correctional Centre at Wacol does not have enclosed walkways, unlike the men’s prisons.
The Women’s Correctional Centre at Wacol does not have enclosed walkways, unlike the men’s prisons. Rob Williams

INTERACTIVE: Where Queensland inmates call home

INDIGENOUS communities, small towns and regional areas with a low-socio economic index are over-represented in Queensland's crowded prison systems.

Inmate numbers released by Queensland Corrective Services every month show the most disadvantaged suburbs in the state have the highest number of prisoners who list these suburbs as their home address. 

A total 73 inmates list Palm Island as home. 103 come from Mount Isa. 72 come from Gympie, and that doesn't include its outer suburbs. A total 33 people list the Aboriginal mission Doomadgee as home. 30 come from Dalby. 70 inmates list Maryborough as their address.

Outer suburbs of the state's affluent areas also have a high number of prisoners in the system.

At 106, Caboolture has the second-highest number of inmates who list it as their home address. 

Only Toowoomba has a higher number of prisoners at 114.

The numbers, especially for Indigenous people, could be even worse because many offenders who live in remote communities give the courts the addresses of family members who live in nearby cities.

Lawyer Martin Hodgson said his experience suggested the figures were much worse than those released by QCS. 

Inside Maryborough Correctional Centre.
Inside Maryborough Correctional Centre. Robyne Cuerel

"One of the reasons being that many people from remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those who are experiencing homelessness often give an address that is in the town/city where the court proceedings are located and is in fact the residence of their relative," he said.

Mr Hodgson is most known for his work as an advocate in the Foreign Prisoner Support Service, helping Australians caught up in international justice systems.

But he has taken on the Queensland system in a podcast exploring the case of Kevin Henry, an Indigenous man convicted of murdering a woman in Rockhampton in 1991.

Curtain the Podcast makes the case that Kevin was wrongly convicted on a false confession. It also highlights the treatment of Indigenous people within the courts and prisons, and especially by Queensland's parole board.

More than 2700 of the 8373 prisoners in Queensland's prisons at the end of February were Indigenous. 

Mr Hodgson said the state's parole board failed to understand the different circumstances faced by Indigenous prisoners. 

The part-time parole board and the parole system will be overhauled this year after a major review found the growth in prisoner numbers had compromised the ability for Queensland to rehabilitate prisoners. 

Figures released to News Regional Media showed high-security correctional centres in the state held 1600 more prisoners than they were designed for as of March 10. 

Kevin has served the entirety of his 25-year sentence, but has been denied parole and remains in Capricornia Correctional Centre just north of Rockhampton.

He is one of 35 inmates who come from Woorabinda, an Indigenous community two hours west of Rockhampton considered to be the fifth most disadvantaged place in Australia according to the Australian Bureau of Statistic's socio-economic index

Mr Hodgson said part of the reason people from disadvantaged areas were over-represented in the prison system was a lack of funds to hire lawyers.

"For many poor prisoners and those who have low levels of literacy, their ability to understand the process, complete required programs or even understand what is required of them is almost impossible," he said.

"The level of communication between the parole board and prisoners, as well as their legal representative is poor, and the parole board displays a distinct lack of understanding of the issues facing those from low-ses backgrounds, people with a disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and women who rely on abusive partners for the funding of their cases."

Almost 50 suburbs in the state had 30 or more people inside prisons as of the end of February: 

Cities like Cairns, Ipswich and Logan had multiple suburbs with more than 30 prisoners listing it as their home address. 

The suburbs with 50 or more prisoners are scattered across the state, from Aurukun in the far north to Woodridge south of Brisbane. 

Those prisoners include both long-term and short-term sentences, and people who are on remand only and waiting for their case to move through the courts and haven't yet been proven innocent or guilty. 

Mr Hodgson said there was a grave lack of funding for Legal Aid and community legal services, contributing to the lack of subsidised legal services. Federal Government funding for legal aid providers in Queensland was slashed by about $2 million this financial year, from $8.9 million to about $6.9 million.

This comes as more alleged offenders than ever are moving through the courts. 

In the 2015-2016 District Court annual report, Queensland Chief Judge Kerry O'Brien said there was a 5.9% increase in the number of criminal cases lodged before the court, following a 6.1% increase the year before. 

It meant an extra 326 cases moved through district courts across the state. Judge O'Brien said a renewed emphasis on domestic violence would likely add to the number of cases. He called for another judge to be appointed alongside the 39 judges already working in the court. 

"The increasing volume, length and complexity of the work dealt with by the court has placed its judicial resources under increasing strain," he said. 

"There is now a case I believe for the appointment of an additional judge to the court." 

Mr Hodgson said the lack of access to legal services left Queensland with a two-tiered legal system. 

"One for those with the resources to receive a fair hearing and one for those who simply are thrown at the mercy of the justice system without receiving the kind of defence anyone should expect to receive in a modern legal system," he said.  

News Corp Australia

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