Inmate numbers could hit six figures
A DAY after a prison officer was bashed by an inmate in Brisbane, a report reveals prisoner numbers are set to skyrocket across Queensland and the nation.
Deakin School of Psychology Professor Joe Graffam said an urgent rethink was needed regarding Australia's criminal justice system.
He says currently prisons are being used as places to warehouse people facing difficulties associated with poverty, homelessness, mental ill-health, cognitive impairment and substance abuse.
Prof Graffam's remarks come a day after a correctional officer was bashed by a prisoner at Brisbane's Wolston jail after he told the inmate off about an abusive phone call.
The bashing was hours after widespread stop-work action for corrective service personnel in Queensland.
Brisbane Correctional Officers left their post for six hours in a dispute over pay.
Court officers also stopped work outside Brisbane courts.
"There are more than 40,000 people locked up in Australia today," Prof Graffam said.
"The figure was fewer than 10,000 in 1980 and, if we keep going the way we are, the prison population will be over 100,000 in a few decades, because the rate of imprisoning people just keeps increasing.
"The vast majority of these people are not dangerous, violent criminals. Most people in jail are there for less than 12 months, serving sentences for nonviolent crimes related to poverty, mental ill-health issues or drug use."
The Queensland Government has vowed to build a new prison near Gatton to help deal with overcrowding.
But Prof Graffam believes constructing more facilities isn't the answer.
"Building new jails will not help solve this crisis. We must think critically about how we can stop people recycling through the prison system," he said.
"People are often released to homelessness and joblessness. There are no offender-specific community services to support them, and they are often not welcome within generic services.
"We need to bust the myth that it's 'soft on crime' to give people services when they get released. Actually this is one of the best ways we can increase community safety, and reduce reoffending."