Prison systems ‘overheating’, says former Supreme Court judge

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A former Supreme Court judge and retired attorney-general addressed the NSW parliament about the ‘overheating’ prison system last night, warning that riots could be the result if the system boils over.

John Dowd QC, a one-time liberal leader is calling for an overhaul of the prison system, saying NSW prisons face inadequate medical treatment, are overcrowded, and now ban smoking, Sky News reported.

“The prison system is now well over capacity, with many inmates living three-to-a-cell,” Dowd reportedly told AAP, saying that the smoking ban is an additional pressure to a stressed system.

“And unless more prisons are built or unless the court system gets rid of more cases, then it will continue at the rate that it's going now.”

Dowd blames tough bail laws, a higher number of trials than guilty pleas and District Court logjams for the rapidly rising prison population.

The comments follow the release of a report in May, revealing over crowded facilities and a soaring prison population.
“If you overheat the system, and take away things like smoking, then you've got a formula for problems,” Dowd said.

“The public is, generally, not concerned about prisoners: they don't identity with them; they don't understand them.
“But many of them are wrongly charged, and haven't committed offences.

“And in international terms, we're a developed community, and we should be looking after these people.”

Corrective Services Minister David Elliot has promised 1000 new beds and Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton has appointed two new judges, but Dowd said more must be done to address the problem.