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Estimates: Questions about overcrowding and parole delays in Queensland prisons

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Thursday 12 August 2021, I asked about overcrowding and conditions in Queensland's prisons, and delays in considering parole applications and suspensions which is contributing to this overcrowding. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Good afternoon, everyone. I have a question regarding the response to question on notice No. 14 which says that there were 9,954 prisoners but, when we add up the numbers for individual facilities included in that answer, there were only 9,618 built beds in Queensland as at 30 June. Commissioner, can you confirm that that means there are at least 300 more prisoners than beds? Does this mean that those people are forced either to share a bed or sleep on the floor? What does it mean in practice?

Commissioner Stewart: We do have a number of people who sleep on mattresses on the floor in our centres. Again, that relates to the excellent work that we have been doing in relation to building bunk beds. Our position is that we do not want any prisoner sleeping on a mattress on the floor. At the moment, because of the high prisoner numbers that we do have, yes it is the case that we have prisoners who are sleeping on mattresses on the floor. However, as we said, over the next number of years and in the past we will have introduced 4,000 new built beds into the system—2,000 bunk beds. When the new centre at Southern Queensland opens in 2024, it will have another 1,004 beds. At the Capricornia Correctional Centre, we have undergone a significant expansion and have built 394 beds that are being commissioned at this moment. Yes, there are prisoners who are required to sleep on mattresses on the floor. Again, we are very careful to ensure that we have appropriate people doing that. In terms of the work that we are doing across bunk beds, built beds and our facilities, we do not want anyone sleeping on the floor.

Mr BERKMAN: Thank you. I have a follow-on from that. One of the significant contributors to overcrowding obviously is the 4,000-plus people in prison waiting on a parole decision. I understand that that backlog has worsened even with the addition of the new operational team to consider applications. Minister, when will the KPMG review of this crisis be completed and solutions implemented coming out of that beyond a couple of new teams as mentioned in your earlier answer?

Mr RYAN: Thank you. I note that the member may have missed what I said in my opening statement where I spoke about an additional resourcing allocation to the parole board continuing the fourth temporary operating team for 12 months and about establishing a fifth operating team. That additional resourcing and the decision around that is independent of that KPMG report. We are yet to receive that KPMG report. I have not yet received it. I understand that Queensland Corrective Services has not received the final report. When it is received, we will obviously consider it thoroughly. I have a view that, once governments have had a chance to consider reviews thoroughly, we make a public statement about implementing any recommendations that may follow. I cannot yet give a time frame because we have not seen that report, but we are acting independently of that report anyway, noting the capacity pressures on the parole board by continuing that fourth team essentially for another 12 months and by establishing that fifth team.

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