Homes Not Cells: Stop Gatton Women’s Prison
[Yesterday morning] a group of four women blocked Millers Rd leading from Southern Queensland Correctional Centre, stopping the transfer of prisoners from the facility.
They are calling on the Queensland Government to stop transferring women to the 300 cell Southern Queensland Correctional Centre. The newly formed group, No Gatton Women’s Prison, want the Queensland Government to stop the prison transfers and rethink the need for another women’s prison.
It is estimated 40% of women in Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre are on remand, meaning they are yet to be sentenced.
No Gatton Women’s Prison say the Government should increase funding for diversionary programs to stop women entering the prison system; and place a greater emphasis on health, housing and education funding for women who are being released.
The group say that the establishment of another women’s prison in Queensland could be avoided, and overcrowding concerns addressed, by better supporting women who are eligible for bail.
Philip Marrii is a member of No Gatton Women’s Prison and one of the people blocking the road.
Philip said “It costs the government $107,000 per woman imprisoned in Queensland, per year. A large proportion of women are incarcerated because of poverty and homelessness. Instead of paying multi-national companies like Serco to run prisons, that money could assist women to pay for rent, care for their families and connect with support services in the community, completely avoiding prison.”
Serco operates the Gatton facility currently and has applied for the tender for the women’s prison. If Serco is successful, Southern Queensland Correctional Centre will be the first women’s prison under its control in the world. The group holds grave fears for the welfare of the women given Serco’s record of human rights abused with detention centre offshore and locally and damning submissions to the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission.
Two of the community group’s advocates are Indigenous women who are concerned at the growing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women represented in the prison system in Queensland. Carly Baque, a Waanyi woman, said “statistics show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women comprise of 36% of the female prison population in Queensland. That statistic misrepresents our strength and power as a community but clearly represents how this system is failing our people.
We’ve just seen the release of the Deaths in Custody Database showing that half of all Aboriginal deaths in custody were people on remand. How many more women need to die and families separated before this government realises that we don’t need another maximum security prison, we need the entire criminal justice system to be pulled apart and re-evaluated.”
Ms Baque said “The Queensland Government needs to implement a moratorium on prisons in Queensland. There needs to be a statewide and national debate about how we can build strong communities instead of continuing to expand the prison industry which we know is failing. Women belong with their children not in cages.”
The community group No Gatton Women’s Prison intends on planning further actions until the Queensland Government ceases to transfer women to the Gatton facility.