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Union questions safety at Queensland jail before riot

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A prison employees union has accused Queensland Corrective Services of downplaying safety issues they say contributed to a 16-hour riot at a jail near Rockhampton.

The Together Union has filed a dispute against QCS with the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission following October’s unrest at the Capricornia Correctional Centre.

The union has accused the QCS of failing to follow the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011, saying it “contributed to the severity of the riot” at the central Queensland facility that at one stage involved 70 prisoners.

Together Union claims it raised safety concerns about the correctional centre with the QCS for months before the disturbance but the complaint fell on deaf ears.

“One of the concerns that we have is that on the face of it, there is a culture of downplaying safety issues rather than addressing them (at QCS) and that came home to roost in the riot,” Together Union branch assistant secretary Michael Thomas told AAP.

Mr Thomas said they had highlighted potential issues such as an “inadequate” fence between maximum security and the residential compound that was breached during the riot.

Another issue they had flagged was the “insufficient” security around a landscaping shed that was broken into during the unrest, allowing prisoners to arm themselves with dangerous tools including pick axes and hedge trimmers as well as petrol, raising fears inmates would make explosive molotov cocktails.

“They got through the fence and released people out of residential which increased the number of people unsecured at the centre,” Mr Thomas said.

“With the shed… that’s where they got the picks and the petrol and so forth.

“We had raised concerns about those things. Not only was there no action taken but in some media reports the Chief Superintendent wasn’t even aware that they were raised.”

There were also post-riot issues identified by Together Union, including unsecured vending machines that were used as “battering rams” with soft drinks used as “missiles” during the disturbance.

Others claims include inadequate training for the use of tear gas that was discharged during the unrest, resulting in burns to correctional officers.

Together Union say there was no emergency or evacuation plan for administration officers, claiming some were left alone with up to 10 prisoners during the riot.

They also say there was no debrief or support for prison staff after the unrest.

The riot at the centre, which featured more than 700 prisoners at the time, started at 9am on October 21.

It finally came to an end about 2.30am the next morning when the last nine inmates involved surrendered on the facility’s roof following the arrival of back-up officers from the Maryborough Correctional Centre.

-AAP

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