Prison ‘debacle’: 300 cells fitted with dangerous vents

 

Rockhampton's jail has a prison officer shortage and a highly publicised expansion has been criticised as a "debacle" over unsafe vents fitted to cells, officers have revealed.

The Courier-Mail has been told cell vents in the expansion are unsafe because they are at eye level and prisoners could spit on officers or throw other bodily fluids at them.

They say they have tested the vents with mashed up Weet-Bix.

Officers say almost 300 cells have the dangerous vents at Capricornia Correctional Centre but the department has claimed only one dozen are problematic.

Capricornia Correctional Centre expansion works.
Capricornia Correctional Centre expansion works.

In other prisons they are designed to be at feet level and closer to the ceiling.

On top of the build issue, Queensland Corrective Services has confirmed 58 custodial corrections officer positions at the jail are still not filled out of 232 new positions required for when the building is finished.

The jail has 690 built cells and 897 built beds with a prisoner population of 675, which is under capacity.

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed the state's prison population had ballooned to nearly 10,000 prisoners with most of the jails overcrowded.

An officer said the situation was a "debacle".

"Staff don't feel safe because of the vents," the officer said.

The department says the issue relating to vents is confined to 12 cells in the detention unit however multiple officers have said two prison units - unit 11 and 12 - have the same problems.

 

Expansion works at the Capricornia Correctional Centre.
Expansion works at the Capricornia Correctional Centre.

The spokeswoman said there were units nearing completion that were not commissioned that required minor final works and fault testing.

"Queensland Corrective Services is working towards a solution that will be in the best interests of officer safety," she said.

"The same vent system exists across the new secure units and the DU (detention unit) cells. "An Industrial Commissioner inspected the new secure units and ruled to allow the commissioning of the new secure units to go ahead on final completion.

"The new units 11 and 12 are operational and units 13 and 14 are awaiting final works and testing before commissioning."

But Together Union industrial services director Michael Thomas said the vent issue related to "every secure cell within the expansion which is 300 cells".

"This affects around 300 cells when all units are open," he said.

"As a result of the flaws in design there has been extensive consultation regarding the new Southern Queensland prison.

"The statement by the department that an industrial commissioner has ruled on the matter is simply not correct.

 

Inside the Capricornia Correctional Centre.
Inside the Capricornia Correctional Centre.

"There has been no hearing, there has been no ruling, there was a conference and there was a recommendation put forward to allow the new cells to be opened, but that was done under the understanding the issue would still be pursued under the Work Health and Safety Act.".

The QCS spokeswoman said the expansion would effectively double the capacity of the jail when finished.

There had been internal and external recruitment campaigns to get more officers which included airport advertising, social media content marketing, pop up recruitment stands at shopping centres and significant events, in Rockhampton and more across Queensland.

 

 

Originally published as Prison expansion 'debacle': 300 cells fitted with dangerous vents



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