Police have charged nine prisoners over riots and other incidents at Arthur Gorrie jail during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Inmates began damaging their cells - including flooding them and lighting fires - after they were locked in their cells for prolonged periods during a Stage 4 lockdown in September.

Damage to Arthur Gorrie jail after a riot last year. Picture: 7 News
Damage to Arthur Gorrie jail after a riot last year. Picture: 7 News

It was sparked by three academy officers and two Arthur Gorrie officers contracting the virus.

Police told News Corp nine prisoners have been charged with offences including riot, lighting fires and for assaulting officers during incidents between August 31 and September 16.

Four prisoners aged 35, 32, 22 and 19 are facing riot charges in relation to an incident on September 15 and are due to face court tomorrow.

"Riot has a maximum term of imprisonment of life in prison," a police statement said.

Two men, aged 40 and 19, have also been charged with wilful damage by fire from an incident on September 16 and are due to appear in Beenleigh Magistrates Court on January 21.

Another man, 19, has been charged with wilful damage by fire from the September 16 incident and is due to appear in Richlands Magistrate Court on January 29.

A man, 31, has been charged with a serious assault of a correctional officer relating to disturbances on August 31 and will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on a date to be set. Another man, 26, was charged with serious assault of a correctional officer from disturbances on September 1 and will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on March 3.

"Investigations are ongoing," the police statement said.

The majority of the visible riot incidents - in which items were thrown out of windows and captured by television cameras - took place at the jail on August 31 and September 1 however if it's unclear if further prisoners will be charged relating to those events.

Prison officials have claimed they can't estimate the damage bill from the lockdown riots which trashed 170 cells.

The jail is the state's remand centre and is one of the biggest in Queensland with more than 1000 prisoners.

Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin
Queensland Corrective Services Commissioner Peter Martin


When asked about the issue during Estimates, Commissioner Peter Martin said it was "almost impossible" to put a figure on the damage, partly due to the fact remediation work at the jail was already underway before the riot.

But he said 170 cells, or 19 per cent of the prison rooms, had minor to severe damage.

There were 28 cells unable to be used after the riot, 92 with broken external windows and 95 had broken cell door viewing windows, 44 had electrical damage and 11 were fire damaged.

"The reality is that, because we were remediating the site, many of the windows and doors - the things that needed to be replaced - were already earmarked for remediation or rectification as a result of the site that we had inherited when the site migrated to government control on 1 July," Commissioner Martin told Estimates late last year.

"I can tell you what that totals - I cannot tell you here and now - but the reality is that, regrettably, I cannot tell you what was caused specifically as a result of the damage that occurred back at that time."

After prisoners trashed their cells they were given lollies, chips and soft drinks in what officers dubbed as "show bags" for criminals.

Bags packed for prisoners after riot at Arthur Gorrie jail. Picture: Queensland Corrective Services
Bags packed for prisoners after riot at Arthur Gorrie jail. Picture: Queensland Corrective Services

Prison bosses said the 2000-plus packs were just an interim measure and told officers the packs were to "help restore good order".

Bags packed for prisoners after riot at Arthur Gorrie jail. Picture: Queensland Corrective Services
Bags packed for prisoners after riot at Arthur Gorrie jail. Picture: Queensland Corrective Services


Together Union industrial services director Michael Thomas said the riots cost taxpayers a significant amount of money.

"This is government, all spending has to be authorised," he said.

"The spending that the department undertook to get the damaged cells back to being able to hold prisoners must've been authorised, must've been accounted for and must be quantifiable.

"The suggestion the department doesn't know how much is ludicrous."

After the riot Mr Martin said the prisoners would be held accountable.

"We always hold the prisoner accountable for the behaviour and also for any damage that occurs," he said.

"The taxpayer should not have to underwrite this."

When asked if prisoners had been ordered to pay restitution the QCS spokesman said inmates who intentionally damaged infrastructure faced disciplinary measures and loss of privileges.

"They are also referred to police for consideration of criminal charges. Restitution may be ordered by the court as part of the legal process."

Originally published as Riots, fires, assaults: Inmates revolt over virus lockdown


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