Suicide note in blood and a finger-eating prisoner
A former correctional officer has given a graphic glimpse of life inside Queensland's prisons as he spoke in support of new PTSD laws.
An emotional Jason Hunt remembered gruesome scenes as he told the parliament not many people understood the work of correctional officers, who were often derided as cruel but were constantly running "towards danger" as part of a normal work day.
The Caloundra Labor MP said he recalled an inmate "who was so determined to self harm he bit into and ripped chunks out of his forearm until he reached a blood vessel and then, using only his teeth, pulled it out and severed it".
"Does anyone imagine that this line of work does not leave scars," he asked.
Mr Hunt was speaking in support of new laws that will make it easier for first responders, including police officers, paramedics, correctional officers, child protection and youth workers and firefighters, to access compensation for post traumatic stress disorder.
Instead of having to prove their PTSD was a result of trauma in the workplace, the legislation will recognise it as being work-related automatically.
Mr Hunt described the sweet smell of blood and wading through its stickiness as he came to the aid of inmates.
"I've seen the aftermath of a prisoner who wrote his own suicide note in bright-red, arterial blood on the floor of his cell.
"Fortunately the officers responded in time … and saved the prisoner's life."
He said his workmates had witnessed prisoners who turned to autocannibalism.
"My former workmates were forced to respond time and time again to a prisoner who, over a six-month period, bit off and devoured nine of his own fingers, one knuckle joint at a time," he said.
Mr Hunt said prison riots were "noisy, chaotic and terrifying", officer assaults, usually carried out by multiple attackers, were "haunting to listen to on the radio" as that officer called for help.
Officers would then need to compose themselves "and then go onto the floor in their own unit wondering if they will be the next one to leave in the next ambulance", he said.
Prisoners would also cover themselves in their own excrement and purposely become violent in events known as "bronzers" so that prisoner officers had to physically restrain them.
Mr Hunt said the risks faced by other frontline workers were well-known.
"The fact that few, if any people in the chamber, are familiar with what I've just outlined is testimony to the isolation and the corresponding lack of understanding for correctional officers in the broader community," he said.
"They face demons of their own, but they do so usually with only each other to lean on.
"This is not ideal for an industry that, as I have just outlined, positively courts trauma and the detrimental health effects that follow."
He said the laws were an important signal that "finally someone has listened".
Originally published as Suicide note in blood, finger-eating prisoner: MP's graphic insight