The Prisons Act 1958 : Queensland's missed opportunity in prison reform
thesisposted on 06.12.2017, 12:32 authored by C Galea
After the only change in government in Queensland for more than 40 years, 1957 marked a chance to review the state’s prison system that had been operating for more than 60 years under the Prisons Act 1890. While the new Government consulted other jurisdictions to ‘modernise’ its prison legislation, in the end the Prisons Act 1958 contained many regulations that were either extracted straight from the previous Act or were designed simply to enhance security or prison administration. Few of the changes were in the prisoners’ favour or designed to assist prisoner rehabilitation. Even though it was possible for some clauses of the Prisons Act 1958 to be exploited to initiate rehabilitative reform, Queensland’s prison administrators considered prisoner rehabilitation could be adequately addressed by either prison employment or improved education. Ultimately, the administrators’ primary focus, in the drafting and implementing of the Act, was on improving security and administration. The need to address prison overcrowding meant prison infrastructure did improve after 1958, and this resulted in some archaic regulations becoming obsolete. However, the Queensland prison landscape generally retained its Victorian style prisons, and these remained bastions of outdated attitudes and regulations. During the drafting and after the implementation of the Prisons Act 1958, the stated policy of the Queensland prison system was to encourage rehabilitation. Contemporary penological and criminological theories emphasised the efficacy of rehabilitative practices. Yet in Queensland there continued to be a disparity between policy and practice. Queensland’s prisons operated as they had in the past, with outdated infrastructure and regulations. Rehabilitation programs were a secondary consideration and their status did not improve significantly after the implementation of the new Act. This study will show that even though there was a real need for a genuine commitment to rehabilitation, the Prisons Act 1958 was Queensland’s missed opportunity in prison reform.