IT’S been labelled the Southport “zoo” — where people are kept in “inhumane” conditions with no natural light, beds or privacy for weeks at a time.
The Queensland Law Society and the state’s top civil libertarian have slammed conditions at the Southport Watchhouse which they say has become “a de facto prison” not fit for a dog.
“Everyone in the watch-house is presumed to be innocent awaiting trial and to keep them for 10 days in a place designed to hold people for a few days is one of the greatest scandals across Queensland,” said Queensland Law Society president, Bill Potts.
“We have a prison system that is massively overloaded and there are people in prison who are doubled up and sometimes tripled up in cells designed to fit one person. The end effect of that is there are no places in the jails, so people are instead being stored in watch houses like animals.
“We have a situation where they are deprived access to open air, natural light and if you did the same thing to a dog, there would be a massive uproar. We cannot treat people awaiting trial worse than a dog.”
“I call on the State Government to provide more resources to our prisons to stop this from happening.”
The Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre at Wacol, which houses most of the Coast’s dangerous criminals, was built to hold 890 prisoners but as of yesterday, its cells were occupied by more than 1050 inmates.
Police Minister Jo-Anne Miller has admitted to massive failings in the system and revealed watch houses had become the solution to the state’s overcrowded prisons.
“Sometimes there is no option but to accommodate prisoners on remand in watch houses, including at Southport, which has the appropriate facilities in place to house them,” she said.
“Corrective Services prisoners are, on average, at the Southport Watchhouse for between seven and 10 days, however this figure may be impacted by repeated remands resultant from the court.
“I have been very open about the fact that our prisons are overcrowded.”
Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O’Gorman echoed the law society’s sentiments and labelled the watch-house a “zoo” which stocked prisoners like chickens.
“Prisoners are being forced to live in zoo-like conditions and the problem comes from our overcrowded prisons and failing to grant bail often enough,” he said. “More prisons are not the answer.”