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NSW prisons - a day in the life

Last published on 22 Jul 2020 in Media Releases

Corrective Services NSW officers often deal with many serious incidents across the state’s 36 prisons, such as fights, fires, discovery of contraband, and urgent action to save the lives of inmates wanting to self-harm.

Our dedicated staff efficiently and effectively respond to around 90 incidents each day in correctional centres and courts cells.

On Friday 19 June 2020, these incidents included staff breaking up fights between inmates, and the discovery of a mobile phone inside an inmate.

Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections Anthony Roberts said the work of custodial officers is about much more than just locks.

“Running a prison is a complex job involving qualities such as observation, patience, empathy, courage and resilience,” Mr Roberts said.

“It’s a job not everyone would want to do -or could do. The work is incredibly diverse and demanding.

“The people of New South Wales are fortunate indeed that we have 6,500 experienced and determined officers to keep our prisons secure and support the rehabilitation of offenders. Our staff are fine people, and I salute them.”

Recalling his own early years as a prison officer, Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin said the job involves significant risk.

“This ranges from punches and kicks to assault with spit or urine, hot liquids and gaol-made weapons,” Mr Severin said.

“When a prison officer turns up for work in the morning, they really don’t know how their day is going to unfold. These are brave and resourceful men and women.”

CSNSW media inquiries: 0419 258 290 – calls only, no SMS


The following combines the timetable for a typical day – although not all prisons are the same -with incidents that occurred in various prisons on Friday 19 June 2020.

4.30am
Correctional officers in the Court Escort Security Unit begin their drive to prisons across Sydney to transport inmates to courts or other correctional facilities.

5am
Security Operations Group officers conduct a search operation at Geoffrey Pearce Correctional Centre.

6.00am
Inmates start to have breakfast in their cells. All basic meals are provided. They can also buy food, and other items, through the “buy-up” system, using money earned by prison jobs or deposited in their prison accounts by family.

7.00am
The Medical Escort Unit at Long Bay loads up an inmate to go to the secure annex at Prince of Wales Hospital.

7.40am
Two inmates fight in a cell of the reception room at Goulburn Correctional Centre. A correctional officer asks the pair to stop but they refuse. The officer moves between the inmates to separate the pair before other officers attend the scene for further assistance.

8.00am
Let go. Inmates are released from their cells to go to work, education and training, programs, leisure in the yards or attend the prison’s medical clinic to be seen by Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network staff.

There are various opportunities during the day for inmates to use prison phones to call a limited number of approved phone numbers. Each call is for no more than six minutes and there is often competition for access to phones.

9.12am
Wellington Correctional Centre officers conduct a patrol of the prison after staff at nearby Macquarie Correctional Centre spotted a drone flying over both centres last night. No drone is found.

9.15am
Lithgow Correctional Centre officers pass a yard when a verbal argument between two inmates escalates into a physical fight. Officers enter the yard and give directions for the inmates to cease fighting which is ignored. Officers separate the inmates using minimal force.

9.30am
An inmate faints in the inmates’ lunch room at Parklea Correctional Centre. Officers attend to check on the welfare of the inmate. Another inmate who witnesses the incident claims the inmate who fainted “had been training a bit heavy yesterday and didn’t eat any breakfast this morning”. The inmate suffers a small cut near his lip and is taken to the prison’s medical clinic to be assessed.

9.30am
Correctional officers at Blacktown Court Cells receive an inmate from NSW Police custody who tried to self-harm the night before. The inmate is assessed and will be placed under the care of the Risk Intervention Team, including close monitoring.

10.20am
Staff at South Coast Correctional Centre assist an inmate who is hurt while using exercise equipment. The inmate is cleared by medical staff before returning to his pod.

11am
The Security Operations Group conduct searches of incoming inmate mail. Seven buprenorphine strips are located in a birthday card. Separately, four half bupe strips were found secreted in the seam of an envelope.

11.10am
Dawn De Loas officers observe a man run from a car and throw a tennis ball over the fence. The man drives off. The centre is placed into lock down with all inmates on the oval pat-searched before being returned to their accommodation blocks. No contraband is discovered at this stage. NSW Police are notified.

11.40am
An inmate suffers a small cut on his face while using a drill in the industries area of Kirkconnell Correctional Centre. The inmate is treated by prison medical staff.

12pm
Inmates eat lunch back in their cells.

12pm
While staff conduct muster at Dillwynia Correctional Centre, two inmates begin exchanging punches. The inmates separate after being told to stop. No force is required. Both inmates are taken to the medical clinic for assessment. Both decline protection. They claim they
“don’t like each other”.

12.20pm
A Lithgow Correctional Centre officer notices an irregularity in the carpet of a dayroom while staff are conducting muster of inmates. A gaol-made weapon, made from an empty powdered-milk tin, is found.

1pm
Inmates are taken out of their cells to work, education and training, programs, or leisure in the yards.
An inmate from Mid North Coast Correctional Centre is taken to hospital for an X-ray following suspicions that he has a mobile phone secreted on him.

1.05pm
Silverwater Women’s Correctional Centre staff attend to an inmate who has been scratching her arms and fears for her safety. Following an assessment, the inmate is placed under the care of the Risk Intervention Team, including being housed in a camera cell.

2pm
Shortland Correctional Centre officers conduct a welfare check on an inmate after noticing
he has a slight black eye and some facial scratches. The inmate claims he “fell in the shower and requested no further investigation”.

2.15pm
A contraband search occurs at Shortland Correctional Centre. Four litres of gaol-made-brew made from fermented apples is found inside empty disinfectant bottles. The brew is hidden
under an inmate’s bed.

3pm
Inmates are locked back in their cells for the rest of the day. In some prisons (for example minimum-security) inmates have more time out of their cells. In their cells, inmates can have a TV and radio (with clear casings so contraband can be detected) and access to books from the prison library. If they have an emergency they can use the “knock-up” cell intercom system to call an officer.
Junee Correctional Centre officers conduct a search when a gaol-made shiv and a sharpened metal bar are seized.

3.30pm
Parklea Correctional Centre officers conduct a search of an inmate’s cell when they discover buprenorphine strips hidden in personal belongings.

5pm
Correctional officers search the gardens near the Corrective Services NSW Museum at Cooma Correctional Centre. A package containing cigarette papers and 119 bupe wafers are seized.

6pm
An inmate at Mid North Coast Correctional Centre, who had his X-ray taken earlier in the day, is placed in a dry cell and produces a mobile phone.

6.35pm
Officers terminate a video call at St Heliers Correctional Centre and take appropriate action after a female visitor exposes her breasts to an inmate.

7.30pm
An inmate at Long Bay Correctional Complex uses the “knock up” cell intercom system to tell officers his face is bleeding. Officers and medical staff respond. The inmate is placed under the care of the Risk Intervention Team including being housed in a camera cell.

8.15pm
Dawn De Loas officers earlier see a man throwing a tennis ball over the prison fence and driving away. Staff now locate the package, which includes a small cigarette lighter, tobacco papers and a small amount of tobacco.

9.15pm
An inmate returns to Shortland Correctional Centre after being taken to hospital with a fever. The inmate is cleared of having COVID-19.

11.40pm
Correctional officers escort an inmate from hospital to Surry Hills Court Cells. He was earlier bail-refused at Gosford Court Cells and taken to hospital due to poor health

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