VIOLENCE against correctional officers is a scourge that continues to plague Queensland prisons, and family members of Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) employees are speaking out to ensure improved systemic safety measures are put in place to protect their loved ones.
One such family member is Nicole, the wife of a Queensland prison officer whose husband was assaulted by an inmate roughly five years ago.
Nicole’s husband had faeces thrown in his face, resulting in more than 10 months of hygiene testing that cost their family in excess of $8000.
“Because the prisoner was Hepatitis C Positive, it was months of testing which meant we had to put our life on hold,” Nicole said.
“In addition, you go through a two-year court process only to find out the prisoner gets off – it’s completely wrong.”
Nicole said she would like to see a mandatory sentence of 14 years implemented for prisoners who unlawfully assault a working corrections services officer, up from the seven-year sentence which is currently in the Criminal Code.
“I want to see the same sentencing laws for those people who assault prison officers as that of police and ambulance personnel,” she said.
“If a police officer is seriously assaulted, it makes national news as it should.
“However, when it’s a correctional officer, no-one seems to want to know or seems to care – I’m fed up and it needs to change.
“I’m sick of my husband and his colleagues being treated as punching bags and not having anything done about it in the way of punishment.”
Nicole has not been the only person to speak out on this issue, with a number of strikes having been held by correctional officers and unions across the state for improved working conditions – including multiple rallies outside Lotus Glen Correctional Centre.
When looking at the statistics, it’s clear to see why there’s such a strong movement growing among QCS employees, as there have been 170 incidents of assault recorded against prison officers since January 1 of this year (As of last Friday).
That’s more than one assault every two days.
It’s not only the physical aspects of the assaults that have an impact on officers, as they take arguably an even bigger toll mentally.
“There are some days where my husband won’t want to get out of the car,” Nicole said.
“Sometimes he comes home from two or three days of long shifts and he’s not the same person he was before which has an enormous effect on our family.
“Hopefully with increased sentencing and improved protective measures in place it can deter prisoners from engaging in violence, which will in turn be enormously beneficial for officers’ physical and mental wellbeing.
“But that can only be achieved if the State Government is willing to listen.”
To achieve greater reach for her cause, Nicole recruited the help of Member for Hill Shane Knuth.
At Parliament last week, Mr Knuth asked Minister for Police and Minister for Corrective Services Mark Ryan with reference to violence against Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) employees; will the Minister:
A. Advise if the QCS has completed a thorough investigation into the current issues regarding violence against QCS employees which are being raised by officers, union and members of the general public.
B. Provide specific information on risk mitigation policies currently in place to reduce the risk of assault on QCS employees.
Minister Ryan has until November 19 to respond.
“Mitigating risk is not writing a policy, mitigating risk is putting in clear, concise and consistent systems in place to effectively manage it,” Nicole said.
“Therefore, I’m interested to see what Mark Ryan has to say about the questions tabled by Shane Knuth and what his plans are to address this problem.”
A rally consisting of correctional officers and their family members is scheduled to be held at 1 William Street, Brisbane on October 29.
Nicole asked The Express to not have her or her husband’s full name printed in this article.