Qld prison staff had problems before riot

·2-min read

Factionalism among officers and inconsistent work practices were part of the culture of a central Queensland prison before inmates rioted last year.

An independent report into work culture at Capricornia Correctional Centre, near Rockhampton, was handed down on Friday.

Queensland Corrective Services asked Brisbane firm Evexia to conduct the probe after a destructive and violent 16-hour riot in October, for which 45 inmates have been charged.

Guards and other staff told the review senior leadership changes had impacted their sense of psychological safety and trust at work before the riot.

"Differences in leadership styles led to inconsistent direction and reduced clarity for staff," the report said.

A major issue was the expansion of the the jail between 2019 and 2021, which increased the number of beds by 100 to 945 and led to a recruitment drive for up to 232 new full-time staff.

Existing staff were concerned new officers didn't have the right skill sets or experience, the report said, and felt they weren't fully consulted about the expanded jail's design and functions.

"Inconsistency in work practices across the centre were identified as impacting on safety and trust, with the key risk highlighted being maintaining safety with prisoners," it said.

While guards had supportive relationships with their immediate colleagues, the review heard, there was also factionalism with "reports of inappropriate behaviour between officer cohorts".

"Inappropriate and unhelpful behaviours, unprofessional conduct and an acceptance and tolerance of inappropriate comments were identified as a theme," the report said.

"These workplace behaviours were reported at various levels across the centre."

The prison also lacked a clear conflict resolution policy, and a range of internal and external investigations into staff complaints were affecting morale and confidence at the time.

"The culture within the Capricornia Correctional Centre appeared fatigued and disengaged," the report said.

"Concerns were raised about divisions between different sections of the workforce, leading to a lack of trust between different groups."

The report has made a number of recommendations, which QCS Deputy Commissioner Gary McCahon said would be a road map for the jail's manager and staff.

"The review is an opportunity to draw a line under historical issues and move forward with a clear plan for addressing these and building a healthy, safe and inclusive work culture," he said.

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