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Staff shortages, overcrowding, lockdowns led to Ridson unrest

  • Minister will not release actual numbers of prisoners currently incarcerated
  • Government had clear warning prison environment was a “pressure cooker”
  • Liberals need to act now to prevent further turmoil

The Hodgman Liberal Government needs to take immediate steps to prevent further unrest at Risdon Prison by providing greater staff resources and finding a solution to prisoner overcrowding.

Shadow Corrections Minister Lara Gidddings said the government had been warned for months that the concurrent problems of overcrowding and staff shortages had led to a “pressure cooker” environment within Risdon.

“This was a serious situation that went on for eight hours and we acknowledge the efforts of the staff to bring it to a conclusion,” Ms Giddings said.

“The government is well aware that both overcrowding and under-staffing issues have triggered a volatile environment and that situation fuelled the ugly scenes we witnessed last night.

“Lockdowns particularly for single cells are the equivalent of solitary confinement and they are becoming all too frequent.

“But the government and the Acting Corrections Minister Guy Barnett have chosen to ignore repeated warnings from staff about the escalating risks they have been facing due to staff shortages, overcrowding and lockdowns.

“Now that the situation has escalated Mr Barnett needs to act quickly to address these pressures to ensure the safety of staff and prisoners.

“But it’s clear that he has no plan to alleviate overcrowding.

“In contrast, Labor will redirect the funding the Liberals have allocated to their expensive and unworkable abolition of suspended sentences toward the investigation, design and construction of a new correctional facility in the state’s north to address overcrowding.

“Mr Barnett also needs to be honest with Tasmanians about the true situation at Risdon Prison.

“Today when he was questioned about prisoner numbers at Risdon Mr Barnett actively dodged providing a figure and that would suggest the government has no plan and is deliberately trying to keep information from Tasmanians.”