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.

Inside and Outside: Perspectives of Two Directors

Ms Rosalie Martin1, Mr Ian Thomas2
1Chatter Matters Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2Tasmania Prison Service

Excellent collaboration supports the well-being and development of the collaborating parties whilst simultaneously progressing mutual goals. Relational trust between collaborating organisations and their representatives is essential. Competing objectives increase the challenge to fine collaboration. Prisons, by their nature, have many competing objectives: security vs personal liberty, challenging vs generous behaviour, routine vs novel interactions.

Presented by the Director of the Tasmania Prison Service (TPS) and a director of two NGOs – Chatter Matters Tasmania and the Onesimus Foundation – this paper discusses the pitfalls and triumphs of successful program provision for support of children and family relationships within the Tasmania prison context.

Both NGOs began their relationship with the TPS with a single individual volunteering skill to support prisoner development. The TPS identified alignment of this work with its own strategic goals for prisoner development, and fostered these relationships.

Growing trust permitted creation of partnerships which now bring paradigm-shifting innovation through programs that support prisoners to maintain and develop connections with their children and families.

This paper describes the enablement and development of processes of collaboration and relational trust from the points of view of both the TPS and the NGOs. It seeks to highlight how small, nimble organisations in a state where tipping-point can be reached suddenly, hope to make game-changing advances in evidence-based practice.  It also describes the projects that the organisations are undertaking to support desistance from crime through parent-child attachment and educational engagement.


Rosalie Martin is a criminologist, facilitator of reflective dialogue, and clinical speech pathologist of 34 years. In 2013 Rosalie founded a charity, Chatter Matters Tasmania, to bring literacy and parent-child attachment programs to Tasmania’s Risdon Prison. She was awarded 2017 Tasmanian Australian of the Year for the work she began at the prison. Rosalie is grateful for the platform this recognition has given to promote the value of kind communication in evidence-based service delivery.

Ian has worked in prisons for 32 years. He started his career as a Prison Officer in 1986 at Brixton Prison in South London working in a number of prisons whilst earning may career advancements. He also worked in Nigeria for one month on behalf of the British Foreign Office. He has managed two prisons in the UK.

From late 2012 he was the General Manager (Governor) of Port Phillip Prison in Melbourne, Victoria, a prison run by G4S on behalf of the Victorian Government. In January 2017 he commenced the role of Director of Prisons, Tasmania Prison Service (TPS).

Ian brings an acute awareness of the challenges of running prisons and a significant history of delivery and achievements whilst managing contemporary corrective services. Ian acknowledges the hard work from many people in order to continue delivery of effective contemporary corrective services in Tasmania. He continues to lead progress and improvement initiatives that creates a safe and secure environment for all whilst encouraging prisoners to address their offending behaviour, thereby contributing to a safer Tasmania.

Hyper-masculinity or healthier masculinities? An exploration of incarcerated fathering and prison masculinities

Ms Tess Bartlett1
1Monash University, Caulfield, Australia

Previous work on prison masculinities have tended to focus on the ‘hyper-masculine’ prison environment and a prisoner’s ability to negotiate his place within the prison hierarchy. Yet masculinity is constructed in different ways, depending on social, cultural, racial and political factors. Furthermore, such excessive focus on these hyper-masculine facets of the prison environment have understated a prisoner’s ability to manage prison life. Rather than situate this paper within a hyper-masculine framework, I contend that there are indeed healthier masculinities that exist for some imprisoned men (as is the case for men outside a prison). These lie outside traditional notions of masculinity and may be witnessed, for example, when incarcerated fathers interact with their children. Drawing on the views of 39 primary carer fathers in Victoria, Australia, I focus specifically on incarcerated fathers’ experiences of visiting, fathering education and support to advance the conceptualisation of healthier prison masculinities. In doing so, I question the tendency to focus on the hyper-masculine prison narrative arguing for a more nuanced understanding of fatherhood and prison masculinities.


Tess Bartlett is a PhD candidate and research associate at the Department of Social Work, Monash University.  Through a lens of masculinity her research explores the experiences of incarcerated primary carer fathers in Victoria, Australia, at the point of arrest and imprisonment. Tess has been awarded a number of awards for her work including best presentation at the ANZSOC PECRC conference and best PhD abstract at the Victorian Postgraduate  Criminology Conference. You can connect with Tess on twitter @tscbartlett


The cost of caring: uncovering the costs for grandparents raising grandchildren with incarcerated parents

Dr Catherine Flynn1, Ms Tess Bartlett1
1Monash University Department Of Social Work, Caulfield East, Australia

In 2017, Corrections Victoria reported the daily cost of keeping a person imprisoned was $304.12. This individual approach to ‘cost’ ignores that around 50% of those in prison are parents of dependent children, and disregards the hidden costs incurred by these children’s carers. While the negative emotional, practical and social impacts of parental imprisonment on children are well established, there has been little attention paid to the experiences of those who care for them. These are typically informal carers, extended family and, most often, grandparents. This paper draws on data from an ARC funded study examining care planning for children whose primary carers were imprisoned in Victoria and New South Wales, and focuses specifically on grandparent carers and the costs associated with raising these children. To do so, qualitative data from interviews with 20 grandparent carers, along with quantitative data from 50 imprisoned parents, whose children were cared for by grandparents, are presented. Findings indicate around one-quarter of all children were placed with their grandparents. These placements commonly occurred at the point of parental arrest or imprisonment, were unplanned and in response to a crisis. Whilst findings from grandparent carers reflect some known challenges, including the cost of visiting and provision of financial support to incarcerated parents, data revealed new costs of caring such as legal fees, lost wages, changes to retirement plans, superannuation, and costs associated with healthcare. Targeted follow-up services are needed for carers to ensure that the unanticipated consequences of current punitive responses are minimised.


Catherine Flynn is a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Work at Monash University. Her core area of research is the intersection of criminal justice and social work; she also has a keen interest in the unintended consequences of criminal justice policy and practices, with a focus on children and families.

Dreaming Inside: Perspectives on a creative writing program for Aboriginal men in prison

Natalia Hanley1 Elena Marchetti2
1University Of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 2Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia

Dreaming Inside is a creative writing program delivered by the South Coast Writers Centre offered to Aboriginal men located in one New South Wales prison. A selection of the men’s writing is published annually in an anthology, now in its sixth volume.

This presentation will describe and discuss Dreaming Inside participants’ perceptions of the program, highlighting its value for increased feelings of well-being, social connectedness and confidence building.

Natalia is a Senior lecturer and qualitative researcher interested in how people experience the institutions and processes of criminal justice. She leads the Criminology program streams at the University of Wollongong.

Professor Marchetti – Elena is the Acting Chair of the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council and is a Professor and ARC Future Fellow at Griffith Law School, Griffith University. She has a long history of research in relation to Indigenous criminal justice programs and sentencing courts and ample experience in conducting and supervising research projects that involve marginalised groups.  Elena has been awarded two ARC funded fellowships.  The first which was awarded in 2009 focused on the use of Indigenous sentencing courts for partner violence offending. The second which was awarded in 2015 and which is currently ongoing, focuses on better ways of evaluating Indigenous-focused criminal justice programs.



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