Mental patient breaks into jail
By Tanya Moore, Paula Doneman and Erica Thompson
April 30, 2004
AN escaped psychiatric patient managed to smuggle herself into a prison yesterday via a dirty laundry bin, foiling what the Department of Corrective Services called Australia's highest level of prison security.
The woman, who escaped from Gold Coast Hospital's mental health unit where she had just been admitted as an involuntary patient, was found by two prisoners inside the Sir David Longland Correctional Centre at Wacol southwest of Brisbane about 9am.
She was lying at the bottom of a 2m bin of dirty laundry, which had been transported from the hospital by a truck, with other laundry bags on top of her.
The prison has a contract to clean the hospital's dirty laundry.
A Department of Corrective Services spokesman said one prisoner noticed the woman and pointed it out to his offsider who said: "Boss, we've found a woman inside this laundry trolley."
The woman came out punching - disoriented and incomprehensible - and a guard took the prisoners away.
The prison was locked down and the woman was taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital where she remained yesterday afternoon.
Despite the incident, the Corrective Services spokesman said Queensland had one of the most secure prison systems in the world.
"In relation to security at Queensland Prisons, we have a record which is second to none in Australia and among the best in the world - statistics show that," he said.
Gold Coast Health Service District district manager Sabrina Walsh said she was "shocked and concerned about the incident".
Ms Walsh said the hospital was very sorry about what had happened to the patient, who was meant to be checked every 15 minutes after arriving about 11pm on Wednesday.
"I think we failed the patient on this occasion," Mrs Walsh said.
She said a full investigation had begun into the incident.
A Queensland Prison Officers Association spokesman Brian Newman said the security breach was a "classic case of the department going soft on security measures".
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said if a mental patient could smuggle herself into a prison laundry basket, "imagine what a criminal mastermind can do".