A blame-game has erupted over a series of scandals at the Townsville Correctional Facility
A blame-game has erupted over a series of scandals at the Townsville Correctional Facility

Blame-game erupts over jail scandals

STAFF and management at the Townsville Correctional Facility are locked in a bitter blame-game as a series of scandals continue to rock the jail.

A death in custody in the early of hours of Friday morning was the latest in a raft of issues at the Townsville Correctional Centre, including an investigation into an alleged sex scandal, staff protesting amid safety concerns, allegations of overcrowding and attacks on both staff and inmates.

A letter, which Townsville MP Scott Stewart confirmed his office forwarded to the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC), included serious allegations. It said the prison had a "toxic and vile workplace culture that every manager at (the prison) has to take responsibility for".

A CCC spokesman said the complaint had been reviewed and referred it to Queensland Corrective Services to deal with.

A Queensland Corrective Services spokeswoman admitted there were cultural issues at the prison, claiming management was working to address this and accusing disgruntled staff of having an agenda.

"The General Manager and his senior leadership team are giving effect to transformative cultural change and are addressing a range of historical cultural issues," the spokeswoman said.

"The Senior Leadership Team at Townsville Correctional Centre have the explicit support of the Commissioner and senior executive in this work, as many of the practices and behaviours they are challenging are not aligned with the ethical and professional standards expected in the QCS.

"It is disappointing, but not surprising, that a small number of staff who are being held accountable for their performance and behaviour are choosing to play out their agenda in the public arena in this way."

Townsville Correctional Centre. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Townsville Correctional Centre. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Together Union Townsville organiser Norm Jacobsen said members put forward a motion of confidence in management in April after an officer was injured by a syringe.

Not one of the 65-members voted in favour of management.

"The members spoke in depth about management's failure to address serious breaches of code of conduct and policy and procedure failures," he said.

"It needs to be addressed. QCS management need to repair broken bridges."

A Corrections source told the Bulletin the Townsville Correctional Centre was "the worst prison in the State" but Mr Jacobsen would only go as far to say "Townsville has a high level of reporting of incidents".

Burdekin MP Dale Last said there was a clear "division" between senior management and the workers while pointing the finger at Police Minister Mark Ryan to step in.

"The question that needs to be asked is who is running our prisons in Queensland and in particular Townsville?" Mr Last said.

"The buck stops with the minister there needs to be a full and comprehensive independent review of the Townsville correctional centre.

"Clearly the minister has lost control of this part of his portfolio."

Data released to the Bulletin shows from 2018 up to March this year, there were 10 incidents where substances had been located within a correctional facility and multiple sources told the Bulletin drugs were "out of control".

"We've had officers talk about prisoners 'shooting up' in front of them," one source said.

A spokesman for Mr Ryan said the Corrective Services Commissioner had given assurances that any matters warranting scrutiny were being investigated.

Mundingburra MP Coralee O'Rourke confirmed her office had been contacted about prisoners on the roof of the facility on Thursday night, several hours before the death in custody.

She said any allegations of misconduct or wrongdoing in the prison system was serious and concerning.

"It is my expectation that appropriate action is taken to investigate and respond to these matters," Ms O'Rourke said.

"The Townsville Correctional Centre is a major employer in our local community with over 600 staff working at the facility."

A Queensland Corrective Services spokeswoman said the death in custody was subject to a police investigation and as such they would not provide further comment other than to convey condolences to the family of the deceased and correctional officers who responded to the death.

The Bulletin requested a meeting with Townsville Correctional Centre general manager Peter Hall and Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan.

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