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Question Time: banning spit hoods

On Tuesday 24 October 2023 I asked the Corrections Minister if he will ban deadly spit hoods in Queensland facilities. 

You can read the question, and the Minister's response, below, or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard)

Mr BERKMAN: My question this morning is to the Minister for Corrective Services. Selesa Tafaifa died in a spit hood after asking for her puffer and telling prison officers four times that she could not breathe, yet spit hoods have been used hundreds of times in Queensland prisons since then. Will the government ban spit hoods in Queensland before we see another death like this?

Mr RYAN: Mr Speaker, this is a matter before the coroner. In respect of those judicial processes, I will not comment on the specific matter. Of course, we have some of the region’s leading corrective services officers employed by Queensland Corrective Services. In fact, they are amongst the best trained, best resourced and best paid in all of Australasia. We owe them a debt of gratitude for the work they do. It is often unseen work, dangerous work, but work that is done on behalf of the community to keep the community safe, dealing with people who have been found by the courts to have harmed the community in one way or another and have been found by the courts to be required to spend a period in detention because of the actions those particular offenders have taken in the community. Queensland Corrective Services is obviously investing a lot in custodial operations, not only in expanding capacity, including a new prison at Lockyer Valley—the Lockyer Valley Correctional Centre, which will be a state-of-the-art correctional centre with a therapeutic operating model—but also in investing in existing infrastructure and additional equipment, resources and training for custodial officers. In fact, I was advised by Queensland Corrective Services that the rollout of new specialist training called Maybo training is continuing across the state. This is about empowering custodial officers with additional tools and additional skills around dealing with complex behaviours and complex needs of offenders.

I support the work of custodial officers. They are well trained; they are well resourced. They make decisions about the appropriate use of force in very dynamic, often violent situations. If they do the wrong thing, of course there should be consequences for doing the wrong thing. However, if they do the right thing and they operate within the guidelines using the equipment they are given, we should all support them for the work they do rather than condemn them.

Our custodial officers continue to work closely with offenders across the state. They engage in rehabilitation actions but they also engage in action around keeping prisons safe, people who work in prisons safe and visitors and other offenders safe. We often have to remind ourselves that the people who are in custody are there for a reason. Sometimes they are there because they are violent and dangerous. That requires trained experts; it requires our custodial officers to be well trained, well resourced and well equipped. I 100 per cent support them. We will continue to support them. We have provided record funding for Queensland Corrective Services and we will continue to do so.

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