In an attempt to crack down on the state’s notorious biker gangs, Queensland officials may adopt a novel approach in breaking down the tough-guy image that outlaw “bikies” try to exude: Forcing them to trade black leather vests for pink prison jumpsuits. The proposed uniform change is one of many jailhouse reforms being set in motion by Campbell Newman, Queensland’s premier since March 2012.
“The Newman Government recently announced a raft of measures, including visitor restrictions, cell time and television bans, which will be imposed on members and associates of criminal gangs when they're in prison,” Jack Dempsey, Queensland’s Police and Community Safety Minister, told The Courier-Mail.
Dempsey continued: “On top of these measures, I have asked Queensland Corrective Services to investigate changing the color of the prison uniform. We will start with members and associates of criminal gangs and will look at rolling it out to other inmates over time.”
The idea for the fluorescent pink prison garb was inspired by an American sheriff in Arizona. Joe Arpaio, nicknamed “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” gained notoriety for his stringent illegal immigration enforcement near the U.S.-Mexico border – while also banning smoking, coffee, pornographic magazines and unrestricted TV in the local jail. He made international headlines in the 1990’s after forcing Maricopa County inmates to wear pink underwear.
“I’ve asked Corrective Services to investigate the Arizona model to see if it could have any benefits in Queensland,” Dempsey said.
Newman also recently announced that the maximum security wing of the Woodford Correctional Center would be turned into a biker-specific facility. The 52-bed unit has been dubbed the “bikie superjail” by local media.
“They are bullies. They like to wear scary looking gear, leather jackets, they have the tattoos, they have their colors,” Newman explained to the AFP. “We know that telling them to wear pink is going to be embarrassing for them.”
Queensland recognizes 26 biker gangs in the region – including Hells Angels and Bandidos, both of which are considered organized crime syndicates by the U.S. Department of Justice. The gangs are often linked to drug trafficking and arms dealing. The recently passed Newman legislation adds an additional 15 years to any prison term incurred by an affiliated member.
The Australian Motorcycle Council, the national’s largest recreational motorcycle group, plans to challenge the legislation, expressing worry that no steps have been outlined that would allow an ex-bikie to prove that he or she has severed all ties with the former gang. Additionally, a high-profile Queensland civil liberties lawyer plans to contest the new laws, claiming that “checks and balances have been bypassed” by the Newman administration.