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Uniting Church head meets Premier & questions Minister over mega prison

Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman
Rev Dr David Pitman, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, meets with Premier Peter Beattie and Minister for Corrective Services Judy Spence today as part of a Heads of Churches delegation. He will question the minister about the 4000 bed Gatton prison.

“The government says it makes no apology for being tough on serious crime,” says David. “However, Queensland Correctional Services data shows 72% of prisoners were jailed for less than twelve months. If the majority of prisoners are not incarcerated for long sentences for serious crimes why is the Gatton precinct being presented as a ‘tough on crime’ initiative?

“Will the Minister be increasing investments in prevention and early intervention, prison diversion programs and post-release supports? I will be asking for details of spending on each of these alternatives for the next five years.

“Also, what measures are in place to reduce reoffending after release and to prevent people with mental illness being incarcerated? Instead of building the biggest prison in Australia why aren’t more efforts being made in these areas? Does the Department of Corrections still see incarceration as a last resort?” asks David.

David Pitman will also question the effectiveness of government crime and justice policy when Queensland’s prison population is expected to grow by 90% in the next ten years. Queensland population will grow by only 13% by 2014.

He will also question the benefits to the local community in Gatton. “A joint statement issued by the Premier and Minister makes strong claims about the economic benefits that will flow to the Gatton Shire. It is disappointing economic benefits to drive regional growth are seen as a primary argument to establish a new prison precinct.

“I will also be asking to what extent Queensland Correctional Services consulted with local people when determining the location. I don’t regard providing information to the Gatton community after the announcement as a legitimate form of consultation. The Minister has since said publicly there would be no turning back on the location decision,” says David.

Photo : Moderator Rev Dr David Pitman