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​For the record: CSNSW responses to matters raised by media

Issued: Sunday, 17 April

On 16 April 2016, James Phelps of the Sunday Telegraph asked Corrective Services NSW to comment on a number of matters. Here are the facts provided by CSNSW in response.

Responses

  1. Peter Severin followed the practice of previous commissioners in reclassifying a small number of lifers on the recommendation of the Serious Offenders Review Council. When some victims’ family members complained about this, the classifications were changed back to maximum and the Commissioner met with victims to give them a say in the process for the future.
  2. Assaults in prisons have increased. There are multiple causes for this, including the increase in inmate numbers, and a great deal of effort is being put into addressing the situation.
  3. When Stephen Jamieson escaped from Goulburn Correctional Centre the electronic system was not malfunctioning. Two towers had not been permanently staffed for some years following a decision made by a previous commissioner. This had not been referred to Commissioner Severin as a security risk before Jamieson’s escape.
  4. Prisoner numbers are totally outside the control of the Commissioner of Corrective Services. The government has approved a range of infrastructure projects to address the increase in numbers. These are being implemented as numbers continue to rise, with more than 2,000 beds added to the system since 2013. In general the system has managed the unexpected and unprecedented increase in numbers well, testimony to its underlying robustness.
  5. There is no evidence that the rate of illicit drug use has increased in prisons in the past three years. What has increased are the searches for illegal drugs and the quality of the programs for inmates with addiction problems. The ice epidemic is a major challenge that did not exist three years ago, and CSNSW has been very active in responding to this.
  6. Correctional Officers are entitled to the same workers compensation benefits as the majority of NSW workers. CSNSW is in discussion with its workers compensation provider and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority to resolve a small number of claims where staff have been disadvantaged. 
  7. Mobile phone jamming started under Commissioner Peter Severin, an Australian first. Following a successful trial at Lithgow Correctional Centre, CSNSW is seeking approval from the Australian Communications and Media Authority to increase the use of jamming, including at Goulburn Correctional Centre.