A Longford family says a Northern prison at Westbury would be a game changer for families hoping to support their loved-ones in prison.
And it could address the overcrowding issues and lockdowns in Risdon Prison's maximum security facility.
In November Tasmanian Prison Service director Ian Thomas revealed the maximum security facility did not have enough beds to accommodate its growing population and was running at 120 per cent capacity.
Concerns were raised about the overcrowding and how the facility could not deliver programs as there was not the staff capabilities to deliver it.
A former prisoner and his family spoke to The Examiner about the need for a Northern facility.
The former prisoner said due to overcrowding some inmates were forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor.
A Department of Justice spokesperson disputed the claim and said no prisoners were forced to sleep on the floor, as they had a range of strategies to provide surge capacity. The specifics of which were not divulged.
However, a report from the state's Custodial Inspector Richard Connock handed down in September revealed mattresses were used to deal with capacity limitations.
"TPS reporting relating to prison capacity does not reflect the reality of the accommodation pressures it faces. This is because temporary beds are added to units as and when required to increase operational capacity, and these temporary beds, which are generally only mattresses, are included in capacity figures as design capacity beds," he said.
The former prisoner's mother said the overcrowding alone showed a Northern prison was needed as soon as possible.
"Who cares where it goes, literally just build it.
"There is not enough staff and it is putting the staff there at risk. It's a pressure boiler really," she said.
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Families and friends must book visits days in advance and are only permitted to visit at certain times. The former prisoner's mother said each Saturday the family made sure someone would drive down to Risdon to visit him.
"There's a lot of travel for some people. We were lucky that we had the resources to be able to go," she said.
"A lot of them sit there, they don't get a visit, because a) it's too far and b) it's too expensive to travel. So there definitely needs to be a Northern prison."
The former prisoner said knowing he would get a visit was about the only thing he had to look forward to during constant lockdowns.
"You wait all week, it's the only thing you wait for. It's the only thing you have to look forward to," he said.
"If one staff member had a day off, we went into lockdown. I've been in there two weeks with the toilet blocked and they make you do it in a bucket and try and make you push the bucket through the doors."
He said this occurred as contractors would not come into a cell with inmates, due to safety concerns, and due to the lockdown there was nowhere for the inmates to go.
The Custodial Inspector's report said lockdowns and staff shortages continued to be ongoing issues.
"Staff shortages create pressures such as increase overtime costs and a generally fatigued workforce whilst lockdowns restrict prisoners' time out of cell and impact the available of service such as education, rehabilitation and reintegration, therapeutic counselling and criminogenic programs," Mr Connock said.
Justice Department figures in 2019/20 showed correctional officers worked about 111,000 hours of overtime. It also showed a 20 per cent spike in the amount of personal leave taken by officers compared to the last two financial years.
A government spokesperson from the Corrections Minister's office said it was continuing to increase its correctional officer recruitment, with 67 recruited last year.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said lockdowns varied in length, and may affect an entire facility or be limited to a single unit, and because of this no exact figure was given.
"It is more meaningful to report the total average out of cell hours. The total average out of cell hours for the TPS for 2019-20 is 7.1 hours per prisoner per day," they said.
The prisoner's mother said she believed most of Risdon's problems could be solved by a Northern prison.
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