United Voice raises concerns for Tasmanian correctional officers

The union representing Tasmania’s correctional officers says it has “never seen morale this bad” among staff at Risdon Prison. 

On Friday, United Voice state secretary Jannette Armstrong said the Hobart prison was under-resourced, which could impact on the safety of both staff and inmates. 

The call followed a volatile incident at Risdon Prison on Wednesday, which involved a six-hour standoff between officers and 40 inmates over the withdrawal of Nicotine Replacement Therapy. 

Acting Attorney-General Matthew Groom said investigations into the incident were ongoing and, on Friday, charges had not been laid. 

The government said it was currently recruiting 30 additional correctional officers and had increased staffing at the Tasmania Prison Service by 47.3 full-time equivalent positions since elected. 

“We take our responsibility of managing the prison very seriously,” Mr Groom said.

“We’ve invested more into our prison system and we’ll continue to make sure that we do everything we need to do as a government to responsibly manage the system.

“We remain committed to ensuring that people that should be in prison, are in prison.” 

But Ms Armstrong said the pressure on staff would only get worse if funding was not increased. 

“Our members had been warning that something like this was going to happen with the combination of the pressures we’ve seen building up over time,” she said. 

“We have never seen morale this bad out there as it is at the moment – there’s high numbers of people out on workers compensation and correctional officers are planning to be called in on their days off.

“The correctional officers are forced into a really difficult position where they have to make hard decisions about their safety versus what they know inmates need in terms of their basic rights.” 

Earlier this year, the Labor Party announced it would scope out and fund a prison in the North if elected. 

The government said the need for a Northern prison was under investigation.