Female prisoners walking in the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre in Queensland. A Human Rights Watch report found prisoners with disabilities are often neglected and abused.
Female prisoners walking in the Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre in Queensland. A Human Rights Watch report found prisoners with disabilities are often neglected and abused. SUPPLIED

The $111 million move to control Queensland prisons

THIS week the Queensland Government announced it would take back control of the state's two privatised prisons, costing taxpayers an extra $111 million over four years.

Voters might be wondering why prison culture and prisoner welfare - a topic that has never swayed voters - has led to an expensive change that will de-privatise two major government centres.

The reason is Taskforce Flaxton. The lengthy investigation and subsequent report from the Crime and Corruption Commission revealed to the public the huge risk inside Queensland's private prisons.

Released only three months ago, the final Taskforce Flaxton report shows how prisons lend themselves to corruption and abuse, especially when overcrowded.

Queensland prisons, including the two that will come back under public control, have experienced overcrowding since at least 2012.

The hybrid mix of private and public prisons was a key feature highlighted in the taskforce report as creating corruption risk.

The mixed model also presented a serious challenge in overhauling the lagging culture across Queensland's correctional centres.

"This marketised approach, where prisons are operated by private, profit-driven organisations, disconnects the state from direct responsibility for the delivery of privately operated prisons," the report said.

"This model creates challenges for the state in ensuring prisoners detained in privately operated facilities are treated humanely and have appropriate access to programs and services."

"The QCS Commissioner has limited visibility of, and ability to influence, the culture of the private centres."

"Given prisoners move between public and private prisons during their sentence, different cultures may adversely affect the experience of prisoners or increase the risk of corruption."

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Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre is one of the centres that will move back under state control.

The high-security prison for men has been privately run by GEO Group since 1992. It holds more than 1000 prisoners.

Southern Queensland Correctional Centre in Gatton was until recently one of the state's biggest prisons for men and run by international conglomerate Serco.

Male prisoners were moved on to other expanded centres to make way for the Gatton facility to become the state's second women-only prison in 2018.

The switch to a women's prison, which the facility was originally designed for, was an attempt to alleviate the severe overcrowding at Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

Serco continues to run the centre as a women's prison. It accepted its first female prisoners in August last year.

In announcing both centres would be made public, Minister for Correction Services Mark Ryan said planning was already underway to the transition from the two private providers.

"Staff at the privately run prisons will be given priority to take up positions in the newly transitioned correctional centres, subject to the usual vetting procedures," he said.