Relieving overcrowding in women’s prisons in Queensland: What it means for female offenders

Dr Sandy Sacre1,Ms Mel Conway1,
1Queensland Corrective Services, Brisbane, Australia

From January 2012 until mid-August, 2018, Brisbane Women’s Correction Centre (BWCC) accommodated significantly more prisoners than its single cell capacity. While overcrowding in Queensland’s male and female secure correctional facilities has remained an issue since 2013, overcrowding at BWCC reached almost 100% over available capacity on some days in the first half of 2018. In addition, to help cope with the overflow, Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre also exceeded its built bed capacity since mid-2016. With 488 additional beds newly commissioned at Borallon Training and Correctional Centre, the Queensland Government made the decision to move all of the men out of Southern Queensland Correctional Centre (SQCC), and move women into this centre which was originally purpose built as a women’s centre. This means that occupancy of Queensland’s high security prisons for women will reduce to approximately 90% on a state-wide basis. Baseline and follow-up data, both quantitative and qualitative, was collected, before and after this change occurred, from a large sample of the women who moved to SQCC and the women who remained at BWCC. The data that will be presented relates to how the women felt about their circumstances before and after the move, how the move was conducted, and women’s hopes, concerns and expectations around the changes. This data will be presented in the context of what has been learned and how this will help inform how QCS manages incarcerated women into the future.


Dr Sacre joined Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) in July 2017 as Director, Research, Evaluation and Performance. Sandy is a Registered Psychologist and Registered Nurse. After working for 12 years in acute and primary healthcare, including intensive care and remote area nursing, Sandy entered the mental health field in 1990, working across private, public and NGO sectors. From 2001, she worked in a variety of clinical, research and tertiary educator roles, including five years managing the programs and counselling department of a large private psychiatric hospital. Part of Sandy’s current role has involved the re-establishment of QCS’s Research and Evaluation Unit in accordance with Recommendation 23 of the Queensland Parole System Review by Walter Sofronoff, QC in late 2016. The unit works both independently and in partnership with QCS colleagues and university scholars, to forge a strong culture of evidence-informed thinking and practice at QCS. Sandy completed an Honours degree in Psychology at the Queensland University of Technology in 2000 and was awarded the University Medal. Supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award Scholarship, she attained a PhD in 2007. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Psychology and Counselling at QUT and an Adjunct Lecturer at the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.


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