Crusoe-Blue was one of five university students who attended the Townsville Correctional Centre for a four-day job shadow placement. Crusoe-Blue is in his second year of a Bachelor of Laws.
Our day began nice and early with an insightful discussion regarding Queensland Corrective Services and the rather unique set up that is in Townsville, with the high and low security correctional facilities operated for both genders. Feeling educated after this initial briefing with General Manager Jon Francis-Jones, we went through the process of securely entering the correctional centre, which included biometric (fingerprint) registration. Following a brief induction to the code of conduct by the Deputy General Manager Kris Winter, we were given an in-depth tour of both the women’s and men’s facilities. We then had lunch with the accommodating correctional officers, after which we were introduced to where legal practitioners confer with their clients and the mechanisms in place to ensure safety—giving us peace of mind for our hopeful future jobs. To conclude the day, we visited the Detention Unit (which houses offenders who require separation), and gained an insight into the sometimes difficult behaviour that the officers, very tactfully, deal with.
The equally busy Tuesday started with the daily operations meeting at the women’s correctional facility, where the specifics of the prisoners and the day ahead was discussed. This was a very vivid overview of what daily life in a centre is like. The itinerary took us next to the reception store, where all prisoners coming from the police watchhouse, either sentenced or on remand, and all prisoners going out, either to court or being discharged from the centre, are processed. In addition to their receipt and discharge duties, they also oversee court link-ups and process all property received. Our evening included a visit to the sentence management service, where within minutes of entering the building, it became patently clear how imperative the operation is. The Manager of Sentence Management John Roth, gave us a comprehensive insight into the role the service plays, from ensuring lawful authorisation of the centre to detain, to calculating accurate sentencing and determining the standard of risk the prisoners pose. The hive of activity in the building was further indicative of its “beating-heart” function within the facility.
First up on Wednesday, we sat in on the daily operations meeting, this time in the men’s facility. Although similar in essence to that of the women’s, it was intriguing to witness the differing objectives that were required for the larger facility. This was followed by a visit to the education block, where we were shown the various processes through which the prisoners are assessed to determine their eligibility for offence-focused programs, and how these programs are delivered; some of the students in our group even participated in the assessment. We then had the opportunity to shadow the psychology team, who explained the mechanisms through which the prisoners’ risk of self-harm or volatility are assessed and rehabilitated. We were further shown, in the Risk Assessment Team meeting, the process through which this risk is addressed and managed, as well as the stringent measures in operation to ensure safety from prisoner’s harm (to themselves and to other inmates). We ended the day with the Programs Team, who demonstrated how programs are run, their effect on the intervention of re-offending and the weighting they are given in regards to an offender’s parole eligibility.
On the Justice Journey, from left, Crusoe-Blue, Breanne, Jessica, Mia, Jayde and General Manager Jon Francis-Jones outside the original gate, built in 1890, of the Townsville Correctional Centre.
Thursday began at the Townsville Courts complex. After being given a thorough overview of the watchhouse and its duties, we were taken up into a vacant courtroom through the accused’s entrance, giving us an empathetic view of the prisoners who appear in court each day. We then sat in on a couple of hearings, including an application to the court and a trial. The afternoon was equally interesting, being escorted through the heart of the residential accommodation within the Townsville Women’s Correctional Centre, including the mothers and babies’ area by the General Manager.
In summary, to speak on behalf of the group, the experience did well to inform us of the pivotal role the correctional service plays in the justice system, and the profound nexus that is present between the courts, corrections and parole authorities, which when kept in unison, has a wealth of benefits for the community. It is my opinion that appreciation of such is relevant to any legal professional or student intending to practice criminal law, and accordingly I am very grateful to the Townsville Correctional Complex, and all its staff, to have been given the opportunity to be made privy to it.