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A journey through the 'belly of the beast' - Part 2

By Bernie Matthews - posted Wednesday, 22 December 2004

This is the second of a three part series.  Part one can be read here.

The October 8, 2003 murder of Mark Day inside the Maximum Security Unit at Sir David Longland Correctional Centre (SDLCC) drew unwanted media attention to the place prisoners call the killing fields of Queensland. During its tenure as Queensland’s top maximum-security prison SDLCC has achieved the highest prisoner mortality rate for unnatural deaths of any Australian maximum-security prison.

SDLCC is the new-age gladiator’s school of survival where over 30 prisoners have died unnatural deaths during the last decade. It is a place where young prisoners have learned that murder and heroin addiction are accepted norms of prison life, because the people who run the system have become immune from outside scrutiny after governments legislated against media access to the tax-payer funded institutions.


SDLCC opened its gates for business in 1989 and the first death occurred January 26, 1990 when Scott Wallace, 30, was murdered inside C Block.

It was in the killing fields where David Smith, 21, begged prison guards to place him in protective custody on September 28, 1994 because he feared for his life. Prison guards refused Smith’s request and then revealed his intentions to other prisoners. Smith’s body was found a short time later in his B5 cell with multiple stab wounds. His murder remains unsolved.

It was in the killing fields where a senior prison guard rested his foot on the chest of a dead prisoner while drinking a can of Coke and yelled to the remaining prisoners locked in their cells, “Next time don’t leave a mess fellas. String ‘em up and save me the paper work.”

Michael James “Micky” Adams, 23, was another casualty of the killing fields when he was found hanging in his B7 cell on September 12, 1997 shortly after he had received a visit from his family who claimed he had been in good spirits. There was no indication Adams had contemplated suicide. His death remains questionable because of the methods employed to commit murder inside the killing fields of SDLCC.

It was in the killing fields where Wayne David Woods, 28, already on strict Protection inside 5KA at SDLCC, was found dead.

The eight cells for strict protection prisoners inside K Block were partitioned from all other protection prisoners and the cell-block was impregnable. Woods was housed inside 5KA with three other high protection prisoners including Mien Duy Tran who had been transferred into the block on October 13, 1997 as a high protection prisoner from Rockhampton Correctional Centre.


On the October 22, 1997 Woods expressed fear for his life after allegedly selling Ajax as heroin and was locked away in his cell during the afternoon. The incident was recorded in the Minutes of an SDLCC Management meeting and a memo was circulated to all SDLCC staff working in the Protection Blocks: “Anyone loitering around fishbowl (the cell-block observation points) may need a counsellor i.e. fears for safety.” Three days later on October 26, 1997 Woods was found dead. His death was recorded as suspected suicide.

The sister of the dead prisoner, Debra Woods, tried to obtain information about her brother’s death but Queensland prison authorities refused to tell her anything. When she began receiving anonymous phone calls warning her against continuing with her inquiries, Ms Wood contacted Professor Paul Wilson, author, criminologist and Bond University lecturer. Professor Wilson in turn contacted Ian Stewart at the Queensland Department of Corrective Services.

“My brother is not a saint,” Ms Woods told Wilson, “but he knew he was going to die and he told the family this was going to happen if he was moved to Sir David Longland.”

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This is an edited extract of a submission to the Uniting Care Centre for Social Justice on the Queensland Prison system. This is the second part in a three part series. The first part can be read here.

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About the Author

Bernie Matthews is a convicted bank robber and prison escapee who has served time for armed robbery and prison escapes in NSW (1969-1980) and Queensland (1996-2000). He is now a journalist. He is the author of Intractable published by Pan Macmillan in November 2006.

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