'Doing Her Time': A Human Rights Analysis of Overcrowding in Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre


  • Erin Leach


At the end of 2016, the Queensland Ombudsman released his report ‘Overcrowding at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre’. This investigation, alongside reports from the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland and Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland reveal that, despite the best efforts of Queensland Correctives Services, there are a number of potential human rights violations that have arisen within Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre as a result of ongoing overcrowding. As of 27 February 2019, Queensland has become the third Australian state or territory  to pass a human rights Act, 14 years after the Australian Capital Territory introduced the Human Rights Act 2004, and 12 years after Victoria introduced the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. In 2019, Australia remains to be the only Western democracy that is yet to introduce a national Act or bill of human rights. This article will consider the potential violations of female prisoners’ human rights inside Queensland’s largest female correctional facility, drawing on case law from Canada, Scotland, and the ECtHR to discuss their potential for recourse under Queensland’s new Human Rights Act 2019.


A Articles/Books/Reports

Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland, Women in Prison (Report, March 2006)

Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland, Women in Prison 2019: A Human Rights Consultation Report (Consultation Report, 2019)

Chappell, Louise, John Chesterman and Lisa Hill, The Politics of Human Rights in Australia (Cambridge University Press, 2009)

Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland, Taskforce Flaxton: An Examination of Corruption Risks and Corruption in Queensland Prisons (Report, December 2018)

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), 2nd General Report on the CPT's Activities (Report, 1992)

European Court of Human Rights: Public Relations Unit, Overview ECHR 1959 — 2018 (Report, March 2019)

Gans, Jeremy, ‘The Charter’s Irremediable Remedies Provision’ (2009) 33(1) Melbourne University Law Review 105

Himsworth, Chris, ‘At the Interface of Public and Private: Docherty v Scottish Ministers’ (2012) 16(1) Edinburgh Law Review 92

Mason, Sir Anthony, ‘The Role of a Constitutional Court in a Federation: A Comparison of the Australian and the United States Experience’ (1986) 16(1) Federal Law Review 1

Naylor, Bronwyn, ‘Human Rights and Respect in Prisons: The Prisoners’ Perspective’ (2014) 31 Law in Context 94

Pankhurst, Helen CBE, Deeds Not Words: The Story of Women’s Rights Then and Now (Sceptre, 8 February 2018)

Queensland Corrective Services, Queensland Corrective Services Report 2017–2018 (Annual Report, 2018)

Queensland Ombudsman, Overcrowding at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre: An Investigation into the Action Taken by Queensland Corrective Services in Response to Overcrowding at Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre (Report, September 2016)

Scottish Parliament, Meeting of the Parliament ‘Official Report’ (Report, 15 January 2019)

Scottish Parliament, Meeting of the Parliament ‘Official Report’ (Report, 5 January 2019)

Sofronoff, Walter QC, Queensland Parole System Review (Final Report, 30 November 2016)

The Australian National University, The Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT): The First Five Years of Operation, (Final Report, May 2009)

Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, 2017 Report on the Operation of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities: Human Rights in Courts and Tribunals (Report, August 2018)

Williams, George, ‘The Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities: Origins and Scope’ (2006) 30(3) Melbourne University Law Review 881

B Legislation

Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)

Canada Act 1982 (UK)

Corrective Services Regulation 2017 (Qld)

Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)

Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT)

Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld)

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)

Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)

The Human Rights Amendment Act 2008 (ACT)

C Cases

Ananyev v Russia (2012) 55 EHRR 18

Apostu v Romania (2017) 65 EHRR 8

Certain Children v Minister for Families and Children & Ors (No 2) [2017] VSC 251

Collins v State of South Australia [1999] SASC 257

Docherty v Scottish Ministers [2011] CSIH 58

Matsoukatidou v Yarra Ranges Council [2017] VSC 61

Mursic v Croatia (2017) 65 EHRR 1

Napier v The Scottish Ministers [2005] CSIH 16

Ogiamien v Ontario (2016) ONSC 3080

R v Smith [1987] 1 SCR 1045

Szafrański v Poland (2017) 64 EHRR 23

Trang v Alberta (Edmonton Remand Centre) 2010 ABQB 6

D Treaties

Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, opened for signature 10 December 1984, 1465 UNTS 85 (entered into force 26 June 1987)

Convention on the Rights of a Child, opened for signature 20 November 1989, 1577 UNTS 3 (entered into force 2 September 1990)

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature 16 December 1966, 999 UNTS 171 (entered into force 23 March 1976)

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, opened for signature 16 December 1966, 993 UNTS 28 (entered into force 3 January 1976)

Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, UN Doc A/RES/57/199 (22 June 2006, adopted 18 December 2002)

The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, opened for signature 4 November 1950, 213 UNTS 221 (entered into force 3 September 1953)

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, GA Res 70/175, UN Doc A/RES/70/175 (8 January 2016, adopted 17 December 2015)

United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, UN Doc A/C.3/70/L.3 (29 September 2015) (Note by the Secretariat)

E Other

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Corrective Services Australia, June Quarter 2019 (Catalogue No 4512.0, 12 September 2019)

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Prisoners in Australia, 2018 (Catalogue No 4517.0, 2018)

Amnesty International, Submission No 069 to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee, Inquiry into Human Rights Bill 2018 Queensland (26 November 2018)

Australian Human Rights Commission, ‘About a Human Rights Act for Australia’ (Web Page, 2015) <https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/letstalkaboutrights/downloads/HRA_questions.pdf>

Australian National University: College of Law, ‘ACT Human Rights Act Portal’ Australian National University (Web Page, 2 October 2014) <http://acthra.anu.edu.au/faq.php#faq6>

Correctional Service Canada, ‘CSC Statistics — Key Facts and Figures’ CSC (Web Page, 1 August 2017) <https://www.csc-scc.gc.ca/publications/005007-3024-en.shtml>

European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), ‘About the CPT’ Council of Europe Portal (Web Page) <https://www.coe.int/en/web/cpt/about-the-cpt>

‘Human Rights Bodies — Complaints Procedures’, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (Web Page) <https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/TBPetitions/Pages/HRTBPetitions.aspx>

‘Human Rights Law’, Queensland Human Rights Commission (Web Page, July 2019) <https://www.qhrc.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/19908/QHRC_factsheet_QueenslandHumanRightsAct.pdf>

‘Media Statements’, The Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory (Web Page, 2019) <http://statements.qld.gov.au/Statement/2019/2/27/historic-day-for-queenslanders-as-human-rights-bill-passes>

Savage, Laura, Female Offenders in Canada, 2017 (Catalogue No 85-002-X, 10 January 2019) <https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/85-002-x/2019001/article/00001-eng.pdf?st=5UKB_mYX>

‘Scottish Prisoners Forced to Double-up in Cells’, BBC News (online, 17 February 2019) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-47264322>

‘SPS Prison Population’ Scottish Prison Service (Web Page, 2019) <http://www.sps.gov.uk/Corporate/Information/SPSPopulation.aspx>

State of Queensland, ‘Healthy Prisons Handbook’ Queensland Corrective Services (November 2007)

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the International Committee of the Red Cross, Handbook on Strategies to Reduce Overcrowding in Prisons (2013)

World Prison Brief, ‘United Kingdom: Scotland’ (Web Page) <http://www.prisonstudies.org/country/united-kingdom-scotland>