‘We’re sorry’: Inmates given treats for being locked in cell
Prisoners at one of Sydney's most violent jails are being given "hampers" filled with "coconut water, chips, crackers and shortbread" after being locked in their cells longer than normal due to staff shortages.
Prison sources inside the privately operated Parklea Correctional Centre said the bags of goodies were being distributed to inmates as an "apology", with the extended lockdowns occurring most weekends.
Six months since MTC-Broadspectrum took control of the prison after winning a seven-year contract, sources inside the western Sydney jail said it remains out of control.
A coronial investigation is underway into a death in custody - an event which triggers a $500,000 penalty to the contractor.
The prison officers, who spoke to The Sunday Telegraph on the condition of anonymity, alleged there had also been up to 16 serious assaults by inmates on staff.
The incidents included an officer who had to go to hospital after being punched to the head by an inmate who had earlier threatened violence.
Another officer suffered a broken nose after he was punched in the head by a jail visitor who was later discovered to be on parole.
Prison officers were also ordered to stay back after hours to locate several sets of missing handcuffs that a security officer had misplaced.
Corrective Services NSW confirmed inmates had been given a "food pack", containing "coconut chips, plain chips, coconut water" and a bag of berry-flavoured "snack bites" due to an extended lockdown, but denied it was as an "apology".
The hampers were distributed after a lockdown several months ago.
A second pack comprising crackers, muesli bars and shortbread had been created, but as a contingency plan in case of another prolonged lockdown.
Before the change of management, the prison was the subject of a state parliamentary inquiry which heard there had been seven suicides since 2016, a higher rate of inmates dying from unnatural causes and more inmate-on-inmate violence that in other State jails.
Up to 20 prisoners on remand - called "freshies" arrive every day.
Among those who have been in custody at the prison is Michael Ibrahim, the brother of nightclub boss John, awaiting sentencing for drug importing, money laundering and dealing with the proceeds of crime. and double murderer Daniel Holdom, who recently handed a life sentence for murdering 20-year-old Karlie Pearce-Stevenson, whose body was found in Belanglo State Forest, and her two-year-old daughter Khandalyce,
The jail had been run by GEO Group Australia since 2009, with joint venture MTC-Broadspectrum taking over on April 1.
MTC - Management and Training Corporation - has experience managing prisons and detention centres in several US states and the UK, while asset management firm Broadspectrum has operated in Australia for more than 60 years.
Parklea prison has been dubbed by inmates "Telstra" for the ease at which prisoners are able to get their hands on a banned mobile phone.
The prison's problems came under the spotlight in 2017 when a video of a bag of ice and makeshift knives in a cell was taken on a mobile phones and posted on YouTube.
The prison has around 1000 inmates, making it one of the State's largest.
Where GEO used to take in around five remand prisoners per day, the new operators are having to handle up to 20.
One prison officer said staff shortages at the jail had resulted in lockdowns occurring almost every weekend, resulting in inmates becoming more aggressive.
Two fires had been lit in protest against lockdowns and the jail was on the cusp of a riot, the officer said.
"The inmates are running the show. It's not just hampers - the governor also issues letters to inmates saying sorry for the lockdowns," the source said.
"There was even talk of looking at extra privileges to inmates, working off a gold, silver, bronze star board, but we are talking about murderers, serial killers, rapists, kiddie fiddlers.
"This is a maximum security jail."
The State government has stationed the taxpayer-funded Special Operations Group (SOG) at the jail to supervise the facility around-the-clock.
Known as "soggies", the elite squad of prison officers was brought in to the prison after a dangerous inmate climbed onto the roof on August 14, forcing the jail to go into lockdown.
The inmate had been in segregation for around 10 months for previously assaulting prison officers before he was transferred to Westmead hospital after self-harming.
After assaulting nursing staff, he was transferred back to Parklea, and climbed on to the roof after a door was allegedly left open.
Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said he had full confidence in Governor Paul Baker, who took on the job at MTC-Broadspectrum after a 24-year career in the UK, including as governor of Her Majesty's Prison Leeds.
"It has been a rocky road and is clearly a work in progress. There have been some issues, which are being worked through," Mr Severin said.
"But I have full confidence in Paul Baker who comes to jail with considerable experience.
"It is a maximum remand prison so you will always have volatility. But we do not tolerate assaults and we will continue to work with MTC on addressing these."
Community Public Sector Union (CPSU) NSW assistant general secretary Tony Wright said the union was working with the new contractors to improve officer safety.
"The violence we see in Parklea is because a private operator is trying to squeeze every last cent out of the contract," he said.