‘Unsafe’: Queensland jails bursting at the seams
THE number of prisoners awaiting trial in Queensland has doubled in the past five years, as concern about overcrowding in the state's jails intensifies.
The Courier-Mail can reveal that more than 2500 inmates were being held on remand last year, with some cases dragging on for years in Queensland courts.
In 2012, there were just 1250 prisoners on remand, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The prison union and advocates have hit out at Queensland Corrective Services, as its new commissioner Peter Martin yesterday fended off suggestions that his jails were problem plagued.
Together union secretary Alex Scott said Queensland's prisons were "inherently unsafe environments due to overcrowding".
"In the long term we need more prisons," he said.
"What (governments) haven't been willing to recognise with overcrowding is that with it needs to be a number of changes, including safe staffing levels. Secondly, they need to make sure appropriate procedures are in place."
Mr Martin would not say whether magistrates were to blame for the influx of prisoners being held on remand, but acknowledged plans to increase jail capacity.
"As I have previously stated on a number of occasions, the growing number of prisoners in the system is challenging, but there are plans in place and construction under way to bring more cells and beds online in coming months and years," he said.
Earlier this week, Mr Martin said Queensland currently had 8778 prisoners.
The remand figures come a day after a human rights organisation released a damning report into Queensland prison conditions, which claimed disabled inmates were being raped by their carers.
According to a senior nurse who spoke to the organisation, six out of eight carers at one facility were convicted sex offenders.
Civil liberties advocate and defence lawyer Terry O'Gorman said the rate of people being denied bail in Queensland was causing major problems.
He said it was no surprise that rape and violence were rife in jail when inmates were required to double up in cells.
"It is symptomatic of a Queensland prison system that is so seriously overcrowded that prison staff can't keep it secure," he said.
"Over the last 10 years, crime has gone down but the prison population has gone up. There really needs to be a serious analysis as to why."