Facebook posts allegedly by Queensland prison officers call for violence against ‘maggot’ inmates

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<span>Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP</span>
Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP

The Greens have called for an investigation into a number of “deeply concerning” social media posts allegedly made by Queensland prison officers, including calls for the use of violence against “maggot” inmates.

Several of the comments cited in a complaint by the Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman were made by individuals on the Facebook page of the Together Queensland Prison Officers’ Union. There is no suggestion the views were endorsed by the union, which has since changed its privacy settings and removed all comments.

In response to a post on the union’s page about a riot at the Capricornia Correction Centre at Rockhampton in October, one comment says: “It’s corrections. Let’s start correcting.

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“This shit is happening every day. Let’s drop the hammer.

“Blame the crims; stop pretending they’re rational human beings; because they’re not; they’re filth. We all know it. Treat them accordingly.”

Other comments on the union post include claims rehabilitation is “imaginary” and a “crock of shit”.

“(Dropping the hammer) worked well until the snivell libertarians and do gooders pushed and pushed until the Qld Government folded and let the maggots think they are human and have entitlements,” the comment says.

Berkman’s complaint also references comments allegedly made by Queensland corrections employees on a popular national Facebook page for prison officers.

In a letter to the Queensland police and corrections minister, Mark Ryan, Berkman says the “dehumanising and stigma-based comments in these forums about inmates, including those who use drugs, contribute to an unsafe environment in Queensland prisons”.

“I understand (the posts) also include descriptions of incidents inside correctional centres with details that appear to breach confidentiality. The content on the pages is deeply concerning and, I believe, not consistent with the public service code of conduct.

“I also believe it is indicative of a toxic work culture within corrections and a very unsafe prison environment for both staff and inmates.”

Berkman told Guardian Australia the posts were “degrading, discriminatory and violent comments by people employed to look after some of the most vulnerable people in our society”.

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“They appear to reflect a disturbingly toxic work environment in Queensland prisons, where inmates are seen as subhuman and not deserving of basic rights.”

The Together union assistant branch secretary, Michael Thomas, said the comments on the page were “not representative of the overall view” of union members and the comments had been made at the time of a major riot, when prison officers had a heightened fear for their wellbeing.

He said the complaint “misses the point” about the issues that exist within the corrections system.

“We are really worried about the welfare of prisoners and the culture within prisons,” Thomas said.

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“To focus on a couple of comments that are not representative of our members misses the bigger picture of the causes of why the riots occurred. The root causes are the overcrowding (including placing multiple prisoners in single rooms, retrofitted with bunk beds), the increase of incidents, the increase of lockdowns, the lack of access to programs and activities (for prisoners) that assist in rehabilitation.

“We also should recognise that Queensland correctional officers are the lowest paid in the country ... for the first four years working in a correctional centre you earn less than a cleaner.

“They’re not valued by the community and we expect a lot from them.”

Berkman’s letter to Ryan asks for an investigation into the alleged involvement of Queensland Corrective Services staff in online forums and appropriate disciplinary action; a broader review of the work culture within the state’s prisons; and mandatory training for prison staff in mental health first aid and working with people who use drugs.

A spokesman for Ryan said he had referred the matter to the Queensland corrections commissioner “for appropriate action”.

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