DV offenders ‘continuing to inflict abuse from inside jails’

Prisoners jailed for serious domestic violence are being permitted to regularly inflict hideous abuse against victims, according to Parole Board Queensland (PBQ) data.

In a revealing and disturbing presentation in the Queensland Law Society’s Modern Advocate Lecture series last week, PBQ Deputy President Peter Shields lifted the lid on many secrets that remain locked behind prison doors.

In a wide-ranging address, Mr Shields spoke about crimes of DV being regularly perpetrated by prisoners in custody, how perpetrators of domestic violence have extremely limited, or no access to courses to assist in their rehabilitation, and the reasons behind the staggering backlog in considering parole applications for thousands of inmates – for up to eight months in some cases.

“As we all know, the commission of domestic violence and the long-term impacts of domestic violence on the survivors, the perpetrators and the children growing up in households where domestic violence is commonplace, is currently subject to a number of reviews,” Mr Shields said.

Peter Shields

“The level and severity of the violence seen by the board is alarming; as is the extent of repeat domestic violence offending, including domestic violence perpetrated by offenders already on parole, or in custody, for domestic violence offending.”

Date collected by PBA shows that about 35% of parolees are returned to custody due to their involvement in committing acts of domestic violence. Another very disturbing trend identified by the board has been prisoners perpetrating domestic violence from inside prison.

“It became apparent to the board that on a frequent (sometimes daily) basis, through direct and indirect contact via the Prison Telephone System, some prisoners were continuing to perpetrate domestic violence; sometimes in direct contravention of a non-contact domestic violence order,” Mr Shields said.

“There is zero tolerance by the board for that type of offending. As a community the clear expectation must be that someone in jail for domestic violence offending cannot commit further domestic violence offending -–and if they do, they will be held criminally liable.

“In collaboration with Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) and the Queensland Police Service (QPS), the board has led the way in implementing robust measures to directly target these prisoners – not only in consideration of parole applications but also in pursuit of criminal charges.

To combat ongoing DV offenders, PBQ now has a process in place to formally request an Intelligence Assessment be undertaken regarding any prisoner. This is prepared by the QCS Intelligence Group.

The Intelligence Assessment Report includes a summary of all known intelligence holdings for the prisoner, any relevant QPS intelligence holdings and an audit of the Prison Telephone System.

“This has been a ‘game-changer’ for the board in that it can now be equipped with a more complete picture when assessing a prisoner’s application for parole and the risk they pose to community safety,” he said.

“It also means that prisoners, prompted by the Queensland Police representatives, are in fact being charged and prosecuted with further domestic violence offences. It is hoped that these measures will provide strength and support to the victims of crime – that they can feel safer in the knowledge that the violence will stop while a prisoner is in jail, and that the prisoner will not be released to parole if it doesn’t.”

“I don’t give a **** (names the aggrieved). I’m going to bash you anywhere I see you ****.”

“I’m gonna kill you then, I’ll just kill you when I get out.”

“Tell whoever you’re running around with I’m gonna break their jaw and I am going to break your jaw when I get out next month. I get released ****.

“I don’t give a **** if I break my parole. I am going to do it and come back for a long time. She’s gotta go brother. It’s all on her. Tell her I’m blaming her the fat ****. Say go **** yourself you dumb mother******.

“True to god I will put a knife in her. I’m going to put a knife into her. I don’t wanna but I feel like, that’s how my gang does, like…”

“Yeah, don’t say nothin’, just do the ****.”

Actual quotes taken from the Prison Telephone System.

Mr Shields said another barrier hobbling attempts to rehabilitate DV offenders before the inevitable release from custody was the provision of specialist targeted domestic violence courses.

“Before I leave the complicated and concerning area of domestic violence it would be remiss of me to not point out two observations which cause me great concern,” he said.

“The first is that as I stand before you tonight, there is currently not one specialised targeted domestic violence course being offered to domestic violence offenders in custody.

“In the recent estimates hearing on 12 August 2021, an Acting Deputy Commissioner of QCS stated the following:

‘In January 2019, QCS initiated an internally funded 18-month trial of a domestic and family violence perpetrator program, Disrupting Family Violence, at the Woodford, Wolston and Maryborough correctional centres as trial sites. Whilst QCS has previously facilitated programs that include elements focused on addressing domestic and family  violence, this was the first perpetrator program focused solely on domestic and family violence to be implemented in a correctional centre setting by QCS.

‘QCS staff were trained by international experts in the area. During the trial, 104 prisoners completed the program and QCS partnered with the Domestic Violence Prevention Centre to offer victim support services to both current and former partners of program participants. A process evaluation of the pilot was undertaken and QCS is in the final stages of addressing the recommendations of the report.

‘QCS has undertaken work to implement recommended enhancements, including providing enhanced training to program delivery staff, revising assessment tools and guidelines and establishing a dedicated intelligence adviser role to enhance and monitor victim safety.

‘The government has also committed funding for a victim advocacy service for the next two financial years as a critical component of the program which provides further support and protections to victims of domestic and family violence. With the announcement of this funding allocation, QCS is on track to recommence delivery of the Disrupting Family Violence program in the Woodford, Walston and Maryborough correctional centres by the end of the year.’”

Mr Shields said the obvious flaw in the proposed rollout of the Disrupting Family Violence program was that only three correctional centres would benefit.

“Queensland has 19 correctional centres,” he said. “The Disrupting Family Violence program will be offered in only three.

“When regard is had to the previously disclosed data that 35% of prisoners are returned to custody by the board due to their involvement in domestic violence, this is an inadequate response to the scourge of domestic violence, particularly when one of the five legislated purposes of any sentence is the rehabilitation of the offender.

“My second observation is that we cannot assist in the rehabilitation of any offender, including the perpetrators of domestic violence, to be imprisoned in facilities which are significantly over capacity, the reality of which means that almost half of the male prisoner population share a cell built for one. This has led to numerous physical assaults as well as sexual assaults including rape.

“I will conclude with one final observation, in the form of a question. Do you think a prisoner imprisoned for perpetrating acts of domestic violence will leave prison better or worse, if they have not been subject to any meaningful rehabilitative program and have spent their sentence fearing for their own safety?”

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    Prisoners jailed for serious domestic violence are being permitted to regularly inflict hideous abuse against victims, according to Parole Board Queensland (PBQ) data. Is a detrimental statement against the Corrective Services Team who does everything to protect the interest of the victims outside in the community. Whereas Mr. Sheilds has mentioned about the uncountable crimes of DV being regularly perpetrated by prisoners in custody. To that I would say there is no way a prisoner is ever given access to no contact spouse/partner’s phone telephone access. The number requested as contact by a prisoner is sent to the CSD verified with the orders in place checked by Intelligence and approved.

    The Prisoners will be charged of their breach of order if they try to reach out to their partners by any source they are aware of. Mr. Sheilds of PBQ do not know that that there is a long announcement on the phone even before any phone call is connected to an outsider saying “This is a call from …..Correctional centre if you are not intending to take the call please hang up”. Why would a victim still be on the phone to listen to the threats and abuses? All that she would need to do is to walk to the police station and report the call, if found to be correct the prissier is then charged with yet another breach, simple. Threatening them is a far question they cannot even reach out to the victims and sometimes due to elapse to time they do not even know their partners whereabouts.Contrarily prisoners have a strict daily routine to follow in the prison with located duties, in sometime they get cutoff from the outside-world, many even discover a new life and forget for what they came into prison. It is true that there are more cases of DV offenders now in prison than may be a decade ago, well the system has done a marvellous job in bringing them to justice or so to say the tunnel vision of people like of Mr. Sjheilds of the society are to be blamed for this. Have any Australian ever stopped for once and thought what are we doing in handling the intricate domestic violence matters ? Does it not require some mature legal luminaries pondering thoughts and investigations being done to find the root causes. I condemn violence in any form be it domestic or public. It is unfair to treat every issue of domestic violence similar, the repurcussions of the punishment inflicted has far reaching consequences especially on children.

    Mr. Sheilds of PBQ wants to divert the focus of attention on failure of PBQ, of the humungous backlog of the parole applications. Thereby citing that there is currently not one specialised targeted domestic violence course being offered to domestic violence offenders in custody. Yes it is true government needs to do something about it. However by citing a quote taken from a prison telephone do not conclude that it is a regular phenomenon. That puts a question mark in the Corrective Services Department.

    Could Mr. Shelds be kind enough to explain the inordinate delays in replying to the parole applications ? The Board is an independent statutory authority established under Chapter 5 of the Corrective Services Act 2006 (QLD) Its function is to decide applications for parole orders, and perform any other functions given to it under the CSA or other legislation.Section 193 provides that after receiving a prisoner’s application for parole, the Board must decide to either grant or refuse the application. The ordinary time frame is within 120 days, unless the Board defers their decision to obtain any additional information it considers necessary to make the decision, in which case it is 150 days (the ‘decision-by-date’, or DBD).

    There are currently parole delays noted to be running 8 to 9 months. I hope Mr. Sheilds understands there is a government cost involved over each prisoner’s stay in the prison. It is also about their liberty and their person right. Parole Board acts on a delegated legislation of some judicial powers being delegated to them to decide and manage the offender in the community and once a return to Prison warrant is executed to follow up timely to offer the parole back.

    Being a part of the Legal fraternity I would never paint every individual especially (men) with the same brush and never judge every case of domestic violence as the same. it is further incumbent on part of others to understand that DV is a very sensitive issue where family and children are in question. Statistics of DV case are grim Australia-wide. We must not necessarily deduce inference from one case and apply to the other. It will have far reaching affects on children being brought without the care and foster of the father. The thin line also sometimes needs to be identified if the so called weaker sex is trying to misuse the law against their male counterpart. I shall conclude rather with a question to the PBQ if at all they can reduce the backlog to bare minimal. Many under trials in the prisoners not even be required to be even brought to the court and they may get their parole back and can integrate to the society. I am aware the task is uphill and that is why you have a team.

    Kind Regards,
    Joy Talukdar
    B.Com( Hons), LLB, LLM, DCA

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