Prison bans a ‘riot waiting to happen’

PRISON guards say a protest at Maryborough jail, which saw four inmates climb onto a roof for 18 hours, is symptomatic of escalating tensions fuelled by overcrowding, smoking bans and cuts to work programs.

Police negotiated with the inmates - the Chronicle understands they had taken issue with the confiscation of adult magazines - from Sunday afternoon until about 8am on Mohday.

Together Union's director of industrial services Michael Thomas confirmed he had been monitoring the climate at Maryborough jail for several weeks and warned the combination of volatile inmates and the lack of authority given to guards to bring them back into line was a recipe for "real danger".

In the past 12 months, changes to government policy have increased Queensland's prison population by 15.9%.

During the most tumultuous periods, Maryborough inmates have had to sleep on mattresses and share cells only designed for one person.

Recent smoking bans have seen tensions rise across the board but Mr Thomas said recent incidents at Maryborough showed the problems "were coming to a head".

Several guards have contacted the Chronicle to complain about the working conditions in high-security wing S6, where prisoners "simply tell us to f*** off" and "slap us in the back of the head when we go to lock up".

One guard said that unless the section went into lockdown pending a review of protocol, "a riot is waiting to happen".

On Monday, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said the protest "had not elevated risk to the security or good order of the centre".

Mr Thomas said order had been disrupted for "some time" and called on management to "give guards the tools and authority they need...without it things are going to go horribly pear-shaped".

A meeting between staff and the general manager is understood to have been set down for Friday.



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