Overdoses, violence: Deadly jail blindspots left exposed

 

PRISON officers are furious new cameras will be installed to monitor staff ahead of already identified black spots in CCTV which they say could stop deaths, increase safety and decrease drug use.

New cameras will be installed in the officer control room at Capricornia jail but officers say this is being fast tracked while previous black spot recommendations from 2016 and 2018 have been ignored.

Queensland Corrective Services says it is merely making upgrades that other jails already have but officers say the jail executive have the wrong priorities.

Michael Wayne Blutcher died of a fentanyl overdose at the Capricornia low security farm in 2013 after drugs were snuck inside a soft drink can.

The 2016 coronial finding said cameras outside the farm on an external road had limited effect at night.

The coroner was told improvements would be made to the CCTV but despite the assurance officers said nothing was upgraded or changed.

And in 2018 the Crime and Corruption Commission's Taskforce Flaxton recommended CCTV blind spots across the state's jails be reviewed with camera networks upgraded.

Together Union industrial services director Michael Thomas said as far as the union was aware "not a single camera has been installed" to rectify black spots since the Flaxton recommendations.

"No one has spent a cent on black spots and after four years of calling for additional cameras to be put into Capricornia, the only ones that have gone in are ones looking at staff," he said.

Capricornia Correctional Centre.
Capricornia Correctional Centre.

"It's a question of priorities, there are reasons to justify putting cameras into control rooms but there's no justification for the failure to install cameras in identified high-risk areas despite clear recommendations from the CCC and the Coroner to do so.

"The failure to invest in basic infrastructure to improve staff safety at a time when assaults are at an all-time high reinforces the view of correctional officers that their safety comes a distant second behind the budget."

The jail is undergoing an upgrade which will almost double its capacity.

A QCS spokeswoman claimed the CCTV network issues were separate and unrelated.

"One is rectification work to the existing prison infrastructure, and the other is the fit-out of the new build, which is still being completed," she said.

In relation to rectification work to the existing infrastructures she said QCS was committed to implementing Flaxton recommendations and there had been a "significant body of work to resolve blind spots in prisons around the state, including Capricornia".

Cameras were installed to address blind spots in the new build, she said.

"The addition of cameras and microphones in Movement Control at Capricornia merely bring it up to standard with other correctional centres across the state," the spokeswoman said.

"It is QCS's policy to install such devices in critical functional areas such as Movement Control given that they are key to maintaining control of the facility.

"If there is a critical loss of control the Incident Command Centre needs to be able to see and hear what is going on to provide an operational response. The functionality is also used as a part of evidence gathering for post-event investigations.

Mr Thomas said the only work on blind spots to existing infrastructure had been a "paper audit".