Riots, fires, stabbings, murders: It’s been hell in our prisons lately
Riots, fires, stabbings, murders: It’s been hell in our prisons lately

Riots, fires, murders: Two years of hell inside Qld prisons

While nobody has broken out of a maximum security Queensland prison in 23 years, the past two years have been so chaotic and violent guards have walked off the job in disgust and called for action.

In the latest incident, accused teen-murderer Zlatko Sikorsky died on Friday after another prisoner "belted him at unlock'' on October 10.

Sikorsky was jailed while awaiting trial over the murder of his 16-year-old girlfriend Larissa Beilby, whose body was found in a barrel in Stapylton in June 2018.

COVID-19 lockdowns and chronic overcrowding have driven the mayhem, which includes two murders, the vicious bashing of a Woodford guard, stabbings of inmates, rampant drug importation, fires and rooftop protests.

And in one vile incident a murderous con threw his own faeces at guards who had brought him a meal.

We take a look at what's been going on in our jails, which house over 7000 criminals - 1000-plus more than "built cell capacity", according to Queensland Corrective Services figures.

 

 

 

 

 

BORALLON TRAINING AND CORRECTIONAL CENTRE

Opened in 1990, near Ipswich, it was Australia's first private jail but is now controlled by the Government. It has been a hotbed of unrest in the past two years.

In September last year two correctional officers were taken to hospital after a prisoner lashed out and bit one on the hand.

In early September two prison officers were hospitalised with suspected reactions to fire extinguisher chemicals after windows in the cells were smashed and a fire was lit outside one of the cells.

 

Borallon prison near Ipswich has been a hotbed of unrest this year. Picture: AAP/Jono Searle
Borallon prison near Ipswich has been a hotbed of unrest this year. Picture: AAP/Jono Searle

The incident came a little over a week after the jail was locked down when two officers were punched repeatedly in the head. A prisoner had refused to move cells, sparking the incident.

On July 29 the jail also went into lockdown when a prisoner climbed onto the roof of a walkway.

And on May 27 a guard was punched and received other injuries while trying to restrain an inmate.

A month earlier, inmates smashed a window in a guard's station during a "code black" (riot) in which officers, one of whom was injured, were forced to use gas on the prisoners.

On April 14 the jail was again in lockdown after prisoners trashed windows and flooded their cells during a "code silver" (rooftop) incident.

Three prisoners took to the rooftop and TVs were smashed.

Ten days earlier, a prisoner climbed onto a roof triggering another "code silver".

In June, 2019 Nicholas Paul Triggs, 27, was found dead in his shared cell early one morning.

Triggs, who was jailed for drug offences and domestic violence charges, was allegedly sharing his cell due to rampant overcrowding.

Police allege Nicholas Triggs was murdered at Borallon prison in June, 2019.
Police allege Nicholas Triggs was murdered at Borallon prison in June, 2019.

Police allege Glenn Ryan Clarke, 42, carried out the attack on Triggs.

The previous month, a guard was rushed to hospital after being hit at least 30 times by a high security inmate while working in a secure part of the facility.

 

WOODFORD CORRECTIONAL CENTRE

Queensland's biggest jail, with nearly 1000 inmates, this facility north of Caboolture has also been very troubled in recent years.

A prisoner was found dead in their cell in early May, just 12 hours after another inmate's body was found in a laundry.

 

Inmates in a high security yard at Woodford. Picture: Chris McCormack
Inmates in a high security yard at Woodford. Picture: Chris McCormack

The prisoner was found in a single occupancy cell with "obvious injuries" just before 4am but his death is being treated as non-suspicious.

However, the death of the 37-year-old man in the laundry was believed to be suspicious.

Correctional staff immediately began first aid on the man when his body was discovered, but he was unable to be revived.

The two deaths were believed to be unrelated.

 

 

They came after a string of incidents including a "code black'' riot on April 14 involving up to 15 prisoners who made makeshift weapons and smashed glass.

Officers had to cut their way into unit N15 and use gas after prisoners ripped phones off the walls, made weapons out of chairs and glass and threw urine into an officer station.

On April 30, a custodial officer was suspended from the jail due to an ongoing investigation in relation to alleged drug offences in a private capacity.

And on April 27, a prison employee was suspended after claims drugs were found in chocolate wrappers.

 

 

The confectionery was seized from a prisoner and later unwittingly offered to staff.

In October last year a Woodford prisoner, 32, fronted Caboolture Magistrates Court charged with spitting on officers.

Such charges, involving multiple prisoners, are heard almost weekly in southeast Queensland suburban courts.

On December 20, 2018, a 45-year-old guard "Greg'' was savagely bashed after telling a prisoner he would have to share his cell.

 

Stitches on top of prison officer Greg’s head.
Stitches on top of prison officer Greg’s head.

 

The stitches on one side of his head.
The stitches on one side of his head.

 

X-ray image showing surgical repairs to Greg’s eye sockets and facial bones.
X-ray image showing surgical repairs to Greg’s eye sockets and facial bones.

Greg was flown to hospital with horrific facial injuries including multiple fractures to his eye sockets, nose and cheek.

He needed emergency surgery to piece together his shattered jaw.

The attack followed revelations there were a record 284 attacks on guards that financial year, many related to overcrowding.

And in September, 2017 the 23-year record for zero escapes was almost broken at Woodford when an inmate swapped identification cards with a cellmate who was due for release.

Prison authorities said standard identity checks thwarted the escape.

However, jail sources said the convicted armed robber made it as far as the reception area for processing, in a major security breach.

The prisoner's plan was to simply walk out the front door, with sources saying he still had years to serve on his sentence.

 

WOLSTON CORRECTIONAL CENTRE

This Wacol "protection'' facility houses high-profile inmates, sex predators, informers and others at risk of attack by fellow prisoners.

The guest list has included wife killer John Chardon, who died last month, Gerard Baden-Clay, Daniel Morcombe's killer Peter Brett Cowan, the murderer of schoolgirl Tiahleigh Palmer, Rick Thorburn (who also died inside, last year), Childers backpacker arsonist Robert Paul Long and disgraced, corrupt former Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale.

Wolston Correctional Centre.
Wolston Correctional Centre.

There have been numerous attacks on guards, and riots, in recent years.

In the latest incident, on October 10, accused murderer Zlatko Sikorsky was left in a critical condition after being savagely beaten. He died in hospital last Friday.

In early August prisoners surrendered after climbing onto a roof.

In March, wife murderer Baden-Clay was banned from working as a paid carer for other inmates as an ongoing punishment for allegedly inappropriately touching a male officer's buttocks the previous October.

Brett Peter Cowan has been assaulted many times by fellow inmates.
Brett Peter Cowan has been assaulted many times by fellow inmates.

 

Child killer Cowan, who spends much of his time cowering in fear in his cell after multiple attacks by fellow inmates, narrowly avoided another incident earlier this year.

Prisoners starting "going off'' to create a diversion and planned to throw jam heated in a microwave on Cowan, who was in an exercise yard.

They also were armed with sharpened broom sticks and a hot sandwich toaster.

Cowan was stabbed in the neck and ear in May, 2018 in a common area of the prison's secure unit. In 2016 he was scalded when boiling water was thrown at him.

In one of the most recent incidnts, triggered by frustration at COVID-19 lockdowns, Michael Shipley headbutted a guard who was bringing him his lunch.

Shipley, who has served 15 years in jail over his lifetime, apologised to the guard and, in an unusual twist, asked Richlands Magistrate Aaron Simpson not to spare him from punishment.

"It wasn't his fault, he had no power (over lockdown rules),'' said Shipley, who pleaded guilty to the August 31 assault.

"The guards are like parents to us.''

He was given further prison time and won't now be released until December next year.

 

ARTHUR GORRIE

The Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Picture: NCA NewWire/Dan Peled
The Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre. Picture: NCA NewWire/Dan Peled

This Wacol facility, whose most famous inmate has been Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott, is now used only as a remand centre where prisoners are kept in custody until their trial or sentence.

The rate of prisoner assault in 2016 was more than twice that of the next most violent prison in the country.

Last month an inmate, 26, on remand for assault, died in a dual occupancy cell. His death is still being investigated.

In September prisoners caused damage across large parts of the jail including lighting fires and smashing windows, resulting in multiple "code blacks" and forcing medical staff to walk off the job.

Multiple units around the prison were damaged by fire and flooding.

Inmates put up a banner that read "COVID FTS (f#@k that s#$t) on the side of a building.

Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin confirmed the riot was due to the introduction of a stage 4 lockdown of the facility.

The fire in September. Picture: Channel 7
The fire in September. Picture: Channel 7

He said over the course of 24 hours a group of a dozen of the 1060 inmates smashed glass, lit multiple small fires and flooded their cells. They also destroyed CCTV technology.

Some inmates were taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital with smoke inhalation.

Authorities were also forced to call a "code purple" - an external threat - when a drone was spotted hovering overhead.

 

 

On August 5 the centre also went into lockdown after an inmate climbed on the roof.

And in July a guard was stabbed in the face with a shiv during a hostage situation.

The previous month a prisoner, 34, was found dead in his cell. His death is being treated as self harm and non-suspicious.

Another prisoner got on the roof in May but came down after a short period.

Ten prisoners took to the rooftop earlier in the year to protest COVID-19 restrictions which have banned family and friends from visiting.

 

BRISBANE WOMEN'S CORRECTIONAL CENTRE WACOL

Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Wolston. Picture: AAP/David Clark
Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre at Wolston. Picture: AAP/David Clark

Former inmates have included Pauline Hanson, who later successfully appealed her conviction, and The Block's Suzi Taylor.

It also is chronically overcrowded and in 2018 there was a proposal to house three inmates per cell.

Incidents have been fairly rare despite the problem.

In January, a prison officer was bitten on the arm while restraining an inmate being escorted to the medical unit after she had self-harmed.

In 2015 staff spoke out about fears that hepatitis C medication was causing increased aggression after an incident in which a female inmate working in a kitchen claimed she purposely bled and urinated in the communal food.

Staff have raised concerns over bouts of anger and erratic behaviour they believe is linked to the medication and asked for restrictions for prisoners working in certain areas of the jail.

 

BRISBANE CORRECTION CENTRE (SIR DAVID LONGLAND)

Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wolston. Picture: AAP/David Clark
Brisbane Correctional Centre at Wolston. Picture: AAP/David Clark

Early last month prison officers walked off the job due to repeated staff assaults and "inaction" from Queensland Corrective Services.

The jail was locked down with prisoners placed in their rooms as it continues to operate with skeleton staff.

In January two guards were treated in hospital after a self-harming prisoner threw a cup of "unidentified liquid" at them, hitting their faces and bodies.

And in October last year one of Queensland's most notorious prisoners, Jason John "Waxy'' Nixon, who is serving an indefinite sentence for killing two men behind bars, threw faeces at correctional officers.

He is serving an indefinite prison term for the murder of fellow prisoner and notorious double murderer Mark Day, whom he beat to death in the exercise yard.

He is also serving time for the group murder of prisoner Bart Vosmaer, who was set upon in the prison gym and beaten to death with free weights by six prisoners, including Nixon.

In 1997, Nixon broke out of prison with "Postcard Bandit" Brenden Abbott under the cover of outside helpers who shot at prison guards.

Nixon pelted the two correctional officers with faeces when they came to deliver lunch to his cell.

Originally published as Riots, fires, murders: Two years of hell inside Qld's prisons

Prisoners on the roof at the high-security Wolston facility. Picture: Seven News
Prisoners on the roof at the high-security Wolston facility. Picture: Seven News
Guards and police watch the men on the roof. Picture: Seven News
Guards and police watch the men on the roof. Picture: Seven News
A guard with a dog patrols the grounds during the September riot. Picture: Annette Dew
A guard with a dog patrols the grounds during the September riot. Picture: Annette Dew

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