Improving prison safety through better health

The safety of officers will increase in Queensland prisons as QCS and Queensland Health develop and implement the Prisoner Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

QCS is working closely with Queensland Health on the strategy with the main focus being to provide prisoners with healthcare that is equivalent to what they can receive in the Queensland community.

The aim of the strategy is to identify ways to reduce barriers, improve efficiency and effectiveness, increase integration between different departments and stakeholders, assist prisoners in taking responsibility for their own health and make healthy choices more accessible to prisoners.

There will be a focus on the specific health needs of women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as older prisoners.

Importantly, the strategy will increase the safety of centres by addressing the physical and mental health needs of prisoners to support their rehabilitation, and allow officers to work with prisoners to address offending behaviours safely and effectively.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Custodial Operations Peter Shaddock said the strategy would be a roadmap for the next five years, which would shape how health services were delivered in partnership with Queensland Health.

“While prisoners are in our care, we need to ensure that they have timely and appropriate access to all the health services that they need to enhance their prospects of rehabilitation,” A/DC Shaddock said.

“We will continue to work closely with Queensland Health to focus our efforts to support and improve the physical and mental wellbeing of all those in our care.

“Improving the health and wellbeing of prisoners is a critical part of keeping our centres and Queensland safe.

“Prisoners whose medical conditions are managed appropriately are more likely to be compliant, behave predictably and engage in work, education, training and programs aimed at reducing risk and the likelihood of reoffending.

“Prisoner health is a matter of public health,” A/DC Shaddock said.

“We know that prisoners are some of the most disadvantaged and sickest members of our communities. Many have underlying mental and physical health issues compounded by substance abuse. Ensuring they receive treatment whilst in our custody ensures that they pose less risk to the community on release and are less likely to  transmit communicable diseases that can have long lasting impacts on us all.

“By giving the prisoners appropriate health care services  whilst rehabilitating them in our centres, we are also increasing their chances of returning to society as healthy and productive members of the community,” A/DC Shaddock said.

The strategy will provide the opportunity for unions, prisoners and advocates to help shape policy and service delivery of healthcare.

Research, improved service delivery through innovation, identifying opportunities to resolve cross agency issues and reporting will also be key points of consideration as the  strategy is rolled out.